Current Month

June 30, 2000

Virgin actually sent KURE a promo copy of the new King Crimson, which amusingly (though perhaps appropriately) ended up deep in the metal section of the new CDs. The reviewer labeled it on the back as "jazzy progressive art rock," similar to "Yes, early Genesis, and Roxy Music." Given the appropriateness of lumping Crimson in with the metal, those comparisons seem less than apt. Crimson stopped sounding like them, at latest, by the second incarnation's albums (Larks' Tongues through Red). If ever they did.

I'm listening to Cop Shoot Cop's Release, but I keep getting acclimatized to the abrasion, so I keep having to turn it up. How much longer can this go on?

Ken Burns interview on his forthcoming jazz documentary.

I think this is part of the pop experience, more than anything else: right now I'm listening to Tom Waits' Rain Dogs, and sitting staring at the stacks of CDs around my stereo while I listen, and I can't really look at any of them and honestly believe I like them more than Rain Dogs. Some of my most favorite CDs are there, and in theory, I like them more: I know I listen to them more often, and I would usually say, "yeah, I like that more," etc. But right now, I can't be convinced otherwise.

"there's nothin' wrong with her a hunnerdollars won't fix"

I think that when I sing Tom Waits songs it sounds like Billy Bob Thornton's character (Earl?) from Sling Blade is the one singing. Coffee makes me nervous...

June 29, 2000

My review of a couple of Spiritualized songs is up at NYLPM. [P.S. Fred's a bitch.]

Stole from Fred: good review of new Sonic Youth.

Dave Marsh, Why Are There Record Companies? [by way of Mike]

June 28, 2000

Today I picked up: Morcheeba's Big Calm, Pole's 3, and Al Green's Greatest Hits. Looking around on the net I notice Al has an album called Al Green Explores Your Mind. What a great title. He's not exploring his mind, or some chick's mind, but your mind - you, the listener. How does he do this? Through what strange power does he reach out and enter your specific mind?

This "morning" while my alarm clock was playing the local classical station, they actually played Steve Reich's "Different Trains," which I had never heard before but guessed from hearing it. I almost never hear any good post-war music on WOI. I wonder what prompted this; a request, maybe. I have some requests for them. :)

Oh, yeah? Well I slept with your girlfriend!

Recently on rmp there's been a thread about the best albums of 1977, which left me wondering, "I wonder what I own from 1977." The answer is, not much (a good Rush album, a Weather Report album I don't like, and... uh... I forgot. too lazy to look up again). But along the way I was led to wonder what other things I own from when, en masse. So, for your pleasure and amusement, I give you: a graph! I find this very, very telling: look at the 90s, the trend during the 80s into the 90s, the lows during the late 70s, and so on. [Telling of my tastes, of course. What did you think?]

Caveat: this tracks no classical CDs (thought of listing them by date of original composition release (publication?), but even then it's a pain), and some points are off due to reissues, etc.

And to top it off, in case you don't think I'm enough of a geek: I wrote code to do this. And the graphing (or "chart", ugh) tool I used was more confusing to me than the code I wrote.

Perfect Sound Forever offers an interesting article, Crossing Country, on blacks in country music.

From this AMG review of Tortoise's second album, the phrase "It isn't music that is designed for casual listening, yet intense listening doesn't quite yield rewards since the music is so repetitive, cryptic, and cerebal" at the end has always bothered me. The way it's phrased, neither casual nor intense listening, apparently, are supposed to yield rewards. We're led to think that it's just that repetitive, cryptic, and cerebal [sic] music just doesn't offer rewards. Yet in the review of the next album, the same reviewer (Erlewine, never liked him) says that TNT, "despite lacking the sustained brilliance of Millions Now Living..." So it's sustainedly brilliant, but doesn't offer rewards because it's repetitive, cryptic, and cerebal [sic]. What?

Listening to Tortoise's first album (s/t) tonight, I had the idea that maybe I like Tortoise for some of the same reasons I like JS Bach's "Musical Offering". Sorry to tease you, though; still thinking about why I like Bach. (Trying not to use the words "abstract" or "mathematical".)

June 27, 2000

If I owe you email and you've been waiting a while, please remind me - been getting a lot lately. And Luis, I'm still working on your question.

I notice that among Tom's vacation listening will be Miles Davis' In a Silent Way. To celebrate this fine listening occasion I will have my own holiday for the next week, and listen plenty to this album, so that I can either (a) offer penetrating insight, or (b) wheedle Tom into liking it a little more, once he returns.

By the way, if there's ever an album for which you'd like a similar "service" performed, just let me know.

If, like Jon, you need a little help...

"Somebody said of Monk that he plays magnificent piano despite the fact that he's got no technique and Cecil Taylor says that is absurd. That is like saying Beethoven has got great technique, but he can't play Monk. You know, it doesn't make any sense to say things like that."

- John Szwed

Well, I did get the howling fantods again. Track 11. I'm not sure if it was the track, or my sleep cycle; I woke up at some weird time (after already waking at 6:something when Paul's mom called, %^$^#$%), and was just MANIC from the processed-wind-chimes sound. I might try it again tonight, though.

If you're wondering whatever happened to my music-and-feminism thing, I'm still working on it. It's not written down yet though, because it's kind of large - what I'm envisioning has more to do with being a listener, in general, than just a feminist one.

Hmmm. My CD player's "clip" light is on. Apparently I had cause to program out some tracks on disc 1 of SAWII. If I remember right, one of them sort of gave me the howling fantods a couple years ago when I was sleeping. So do I turn the clip on? Of course not. I want to see if I get the howling fantods again.

This link will not make sense once things work, but it looks like someone at Pitchfork forgot to pay their yearly hosting bill, or something.

I listen to Selected Ambient Works, Volume II infrequently, despite it once being among my favorites (that's a large group, mind you). That means, though, that there's always something wistful, hazily familiar about it, when I do put it on again.

Tonight's impression: I'm almost never tempted to use the word "timeless" to describe music. Especially because it's a confusing word abused by people who want to argue that this piece of music or that piece of music (a Bach cantata, Beethoven's ninth, "Eleanor Rigby," and so on) "transcends" time or has "stood the test of time." [Hint: use these to push my buttons.] BUT - but, however, Aphex Twin tempts me to use this word. And I want it to mean just what it sounds like, "without time". If there is something vaguely futuristic about this music, as if it would be heard during a Deckard/Rachel scene in Bladerunner, or heard during a docking sequence in 2001, then countering that is a kind of naive simplicity, like Gregorian plainchant without the cold sanctity. Combine these with slowly repetitive synth chords, and all my notions of time are displaced, confused; it's music from every time, no time, drawing out my moments, blurring them into indistinctness, one big moment.

June 26, 2000

Huh. I must've forgotten that the day switched, or something. Some stuff below is from 6-25. C'est la vie.

Tremble in fear at the depths to which Modest Mouse fans will go: Hot Modest Mouse Girls and Hot Modest Mouse Boys are looking for your votes. This is perhaps why I'm not really a "fan" of anything. When you put it that way. [from fsoa]

June 24, 2000

One of my favorite books about music is Thinking About Music by Lewis Rowell. It's very analytic, but because it's careful and loosely organized (Rowell doesn't have one main theme driving the book), it's not as oppressively boring to read as some books on aesthetics. It's very western-centric, but Rowell acknowledges that in the introduction, and attempts, as he says, to always avoid trying to convince the reader to adopt his opinions, when he gives them. In addition, there's a chapter that tries to place traditional Japanese and Indian music in relation to the foregoing chapters.

In part the book is good just because of how clearly it lays out many of the fundamental problems encountered when listening to music, philosophically. In attempting to answer them to some extent, though, Rowell also provides an excellent presentation of much of the western approach to music. To me, the book is most lacking in its almost total absence of discussion of popular music; though much of its discussion applies to or can be applied to popular music, all of its examples are drawn from the western art music tradition, and its questions and explanations are formed along the lines implied by that tradition. A look at the index is instructive: though published in 1983, the book only contains the word "jazz" twice in the index. Styles of music even less accepted by the high-music tradition receive less mention than that.

Despite this I find the book a joy to simply flip through, or read carefully. Even if biased, it is extremely fruitful.

I came across a few different questions, reading tonight, that made me consider a new one. For some different kinds of sounds, I get different kinds of mental impressions. I don't want to confine them to visual ones, because they're not really visual impressions - but there's something like that about them. For instance, when I hear wind instrument notes, or vocals, I get some impression of their place on the scale. Especially with wind notes, I get some sense of the difficulty in playing those notes (high notes on an instrument typically being harder to play than midrange notes - low notes are difficult too, but not quite the same way as high notes). When I hear guitar notes or bass notes, I get a similar impression, only it's focused on where on the fretboard the notes fall, in general (this impression is probably a lot less accurate, because I don't really know how to play these instruments - I'm just somewhat familiar with how they work). Similarly with pianos. I don't always get these impressions, and they're not even as strongly defined as I've made them seem here.

So I wonder, how different peoples' backgrounds color any similar impressions they might receive. What about people who never learned to play music - what do they "see"? Or people who play but have no formal training? Or people with more formal training - surely pianists and guitarists "see" chords somehow, for example.

Ugh. Proceed with caution.

Conversations rather than lectures: I don't know if I've gotten at this before, but let's give it another try.

One of the many things I think I look for, not always knowingly, in any of the art I consume, is dialogue. I'm listening to Sonic Youth at the moment, and I just realized, that's a great explanation for what there is to like about them. More than many other bands, they seem to be in dialogue with themselves, and the listener, more often. This is because they work in different kinds of music, and try to fuse them (i.e. popular and "avant-garde"); the dialogue becomes more obvious.

In lots of other music, or art, the dialogue happens when the listener or viewer, etc., is aware of certain ways of doing art, and can interpret the current art in relation to those.

The reason I say that this is a reason I like them might sound overly justified - intellectual, you know, like I'm sitting here observing a science experiment. But I think that an awareness of this kind of dynamic in music eventually becomes itself part of one's aesthetic responses: more like yelling "yeah!" after a really kickass guitar solo, and less like butterfly taxonomy or tending to an apparatus in a lab. [Down this path, lies people actually liking, genuinely, experimental music; there are other reasons, of course.]

A lot of this dialogue gets picked up from knowing about the history. It's harder to know what was so special about early Dylan (before the accident) if you don't know what music of the time was like. And so on. Some of these historical dialogues are more or less easy to see as dialogues, depending; some people just want to innovate, and do it for innovation's sake. Or because they're bored - and don't really care why.

I don't hear much dialogue in disposable pop. When I listen to the radio I feel I'm being talked at, by someone who doesn't care what I think. I have other reasons for not liking disposable pop, but this one is kind of important, I think.

This is perhaps why young angst-ridden teens take to "alternative" music: at least through its apparent opposition to the mainstream, it appears to offer some dialogue. Lots of angst-ridden teens aren't just interested in becoming isolated from the things they think are wrong, or dumb, or old; they want them to change, too.

Obviously, though, a lot of alternative music is only so alternative. A lot of it only offers shallow dialogue, sort of like the kind that you can find in lots of historical changes.

This is all a mess, so constructive comments welcome.

Motion review of "You Can Have It All" from Yo La Tengo's newest album.

There's a terrible disparity lurking at the heart of the Star Chamber. I should try to come up with more jabs at vapid disposable pop, but I just don't have the heart. Or want to listen to vapid disposable pop.

Note: I never did get around to listening to any of those CDs on my trip.

I was comfortable knowing I could pull out the Roots and listen whenever I wanted, though, so Things Fall Apart was stuck in my head all day, even though I haven't heard it in a couple weeks.

June 23, 2000

Taking a trip to Iowa City today (haven't slept yet either! woo hoo!) to play nerd bowl and insult Jon in person. So with an hour before departure time and nothing better to do, I will pick 24 (because that's how many my favorite case holds) CDs to take with me.

The Dismemberment Plan, "Emergency & I". Mr. Bungle, "California". Sleater-Kinney, "All Hands on the Bad One". Talking Heads, "Popular Favorites (disc 1)". Public Enemy, "Fear of a Black Planet". Keith Jarret, "The Köln Concert". The Roots, "Things Fall Apart". Massive Attack, "Protection". Henry Cow, "Legend". Miles Davis, "Bitches Brew". Diamanda Galas, "Malediction and Prayer". Rachel's, "The Sea and the Bells". The Dirty Three, "Whatever You Love, You Are". Tom Waits, "Rain Dogs". Godspeed You Black Emperor!, "Slow Riot for New Zer0 Kanada EP". Spiritualized, "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space". King Crimson, "Beat". The Orb, "The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (disc 1)". Charles Mingus, "Live at Antibes". Morphine, "Cure for Pain". Yo La Tengo, "Electr-o-Pura". Labradford, "Mi Media Naranja". John Zorn, "Circle Maker (disc 2)".

I'll probably only get to 4 or so of them during the day, including the 4 hours of car trip, but I neeeeed this much variety, you understand, otherwise I would have like 2 CDs and then not want to hear either one.

Not to single out Tom (he just provided me with something to link to), but all the talk about indie rock scenesterism depresses me. Why? Because it means that when people see that I like indie rock, it's easy for them to plop me into the "indie rock scenester" corner of their mind, because the stereotype is ready and waiting. It's not that I want to make sure no one overlooks what a wonderful and eclectic person I am (but I am - please love me), just for the sake of acknowledging that I'm a wonderful and eclectic person. Rather, I don't want the conversations and relationships that can result from meeting new people to be prematurely shunted off into some genre ghetto, where the only interesting or allowable topics are indie rock, or jazz, or disposable pop (whoops! collection seems lacking there. but you get the idea)...

On the darker side, there are people who make stereotypes viable. You just can't win.

Not surprising, really, but poke around in just about any review and you'll probably find something to shake your head at. [by way of us against them, eventually]

I am currently hunting to find out what Chris Cutler thinks about free music (i.e. via MP3s). Why? At one time at least, Cutler was a communist (I think) in the heavily political Henry Cow. So I'm just curious...

Today on the zorn list (for some reason - I hadn't been paying too much attention), someone suggested that the reason writers such as Genet, Conrad, and Nabokov attained such heights is that their non-native-speaker status made the languages they wrote in more difficult for them, so they had to work harder for their successes. This came up in discussion of Thelonious Monk, who (a) is an acknowledged master jazz pianist with an odd style, (b) is sometimes claimed to have been incapable of playing more "normally" (within the jazz idiom). The idea was that he, too, was a "non-native-speaker", as it were, and thus had to forge his own distinctive voice.

First of all, and as an aside, I think Nabokov is a special case, being proficient in multiple languages, and writing superbly in many of them. But that's just an aside.

Overall I think the idea has some merit, though. Compare to Miles Davis, who was never extremely technically gifted, compared to other bebop trumpeters like his early idol, Diz. The received view is that early on he compensated for his technical deficiencies by carving out a distinctive style of playing: tone, phrasing, mood - that best suited his playing. Or Black Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi, whose hand injury led him to play with extremely loose guitar strings - voila, distinctive Sabbath sound. (Also cf. Django Reinhardt.)

These are physical limitations. I'm not sure if it was suggested that Monk's were physical, or mental. But it's the mental ones that interest me more.

And thinking of mental stumbling-blocks leads to a more natural way of thinking about it, and one that's more sympathetic to the musicians in question, too. Something I've heard come up now and then is that Picasso was led to cubism because he saw things differently, in some fundamental sense. Because I've never seen extensive discussion of this idea, I assume that what they mean is not the naive picture we might have: a bug-eyed Spaniard in a beret wandering around, seeing cubes everywhere. Rather, I think of it as someone whose aesthetic sense was just more in tune to certain kinds of things, than other things. Not someone who "saw cubes," but who was biased in some way toward seeing structure in things, or in seeing pictorial space in a way that let him divorce it from strict representation.

So, think the same way about music, about some of its distinctive pioneers: Monk, Parker, Coltrane. Spector, Wilson. Zappa, Zorn, Bungle. The most interesting way to think about this, for me, is how innovation might arise from it. I.e. maybe Parker heard music "differently," but now millions are more used to, can even appreciate, music which is indebted to Parker, thanks to his out-of-whack head.

I listened to VU's Loaded some today, and was just especially turned off. Not sure why.

Saturn: Sun Ra info motherlode.

I knew someone would call me on this, because I noticed after I wrote it that my brain sort of stopped. Tom says:

josh writes of Yo La Tengo's cover of "Little Honda": "The beauty of the song is that it takes a pretty rinky-dink Beach Boys song (sorry, Fred) about a guy and his motor scooter, and turns it into a shoegazeresque drone." Other than being a novel way to approach it, why is this the 'beauty' of the song? I can see an at least equal need for songs about guys and cars as for drones.

I didn't finish my thought. Probably because the good qualities I associate with that drone are hard for me to put into words. So be kind here.

The value I see in the remake could be put two ways. In the original, you've got a fairly standard boy-I-love-my-mode-of-transportation song. The narrator's attention is focused on a particular thing. In the remake, the change in arrangement, in particular the big slab of dischord that is the guitar solo in the middle, de-focuses that attention. It's focused everywhere, or completely inward, if you like - blurred out and blissful, or or self-absorbed and staring at the ground. In this sense, it's (to me) somehow the opposite of the original performance.

I think it's also possible to hear it, slightly, as a piece of program music, and associate the drone with the narrator's joy and the experience of riding the bike.

None of this quite does it, but I tried.

June 22, 2000

Listening to Tortoise's TNT today. They are very, very good at beginning songs.

Westernhomes reviews Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One today, and I disagree with lots of his points.

'Even the otherwise commendable garage band cover of "Little Honda" features a long middle instrumental section which could easily have been cut in half or excised entirely,' he says. The middle section completes the song, in my opinion. The beauty of the song is that it takes a pretty rinky-dink Beach Boys song (sorry, Fred) about a guy and his motor scooter, and turns it into a shoegazeresque drone.

He also talks some about how the album is too long, and how with editing it would still have all its good points, but none of its bad. I disagree, but try looking at it this way: this is an album. For listening to at length ("long player," see). If you want a collection of great songs, it's in there - you just have to switch between them yourself. The things in there that you don't like enrich my long-term experience. Sometimes, like when I'm walking around and I don't have the time for that experience, I just skip around at my whim. The album isn't bad because of this - it supports different kinds of approaches to listening.

Also, on "We're An American Band:" the idea is bliss - nothing more. What else do you need?

On bad days I am inclined to agree about "Spec Bebop," which is the only point at which I ever think it might be an imperfect album. But on good days, though it sticks out from the rest of the album, that song's Krautrock drone does it for me.

Tom sez: what is it with this "squirm genre" they seem hell-bent on inventing? Has there been an editorial decision to run with the name?

[Referring to Pitchfork's review of the new Oval CD.] They're not the ones hell-bent, really: the name has been around for a while, at least. They must have just picked it up from whatever dirty newsgroup I did, or something.

Though I've never seen Autechre lumped in as a squirm outfit.

Geeks (?) note: MP3 player stereo component.

I find it very disturbing, after some six or so months of writing most days, to feel I have nothing to say about any of the music I am listening to. This will pass, but in the meantime, sorry for the relative silence.

I will say this, though. Tonight I was thinking of Herbie Hancock's Sextant for some reason, so I put it in. It was nice how arresting it was - I sat there and said to myself (here's where you can try out your "midwest yokel" voice at home, readers), "this is something special."

June 21, 2000

Tom likes the article more than I thought he would. I think. But, now that I've read it, my take:

Carducci shows a bothersome tendency to link digital production and the kind of vapid, pointless radio music that makes extensive use of digital production techniques. The way he writes it, it's the digital production that makes the music suck. Later, he pins it on the whims of radio programmers, but that doesn't erase his earlier language. Digital doesn't make music better or worse, on its own. But neither does analog technology, or live performance, or any one of a million other possible bones of contention. There have been plenty of good, digitally produced songs and albums. And also bad ones. But shitty music played live and recorded on analog equipment, free of "tampering," is still shitty.

What I did tonight: spent a couple hours trying to write a review of a Cat Power CD.

Why I did this: a local rag is offering shit money and the lure of free CDs for freelance reviews. Both of which I need. Well, one of which.

Why "trying": I have more than 150 words to write about the Cat Power CD, and painfully high standards.

June 20, 2000

Article about the "evils" of production seems one-sided; will make up my mind once I read it all.

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. For some reason I just haven't done any. Apartment hunting. Working on an article for Freaky Trigger, whose new pop music focus group you should read, even if Eminem didn't win. Finally bought some Talking Heads; thought I would like the earlier stuff better but I'm all about the keyboards and world-beat-funk right now.

I have a perverse desire to make lots of mixtapes just so I can put Mr. Bungle songs on them.

June 19, 2000

Nanette offers, among other things, the Indie Rock Girl's Guide to Dating Classic Rock Boys.

I can't stop listening to the new Sleater-Kinney. In fact, last night I read something that really really made me want to sit down and listen carefully to one of Beethoven's late string quartets, but I can't do it yet because I'm still listening to Sleater-Kinney. A classical fan would no doubt think this is indicative of the deep consideration necessary to appreciate classical music, relative to ephemeral pop nonsense. On the other hand, a pop fan would think it's fucking cool. If this never, ever happens to you, I think maybe you're not really enjoying your music. No matter what kind it is.

June 18, 2000

Sometimes I miss my old ImageWriter II. [crazy link from Joel].

Few more discs I just got: the new Sleater-Kinney, Bedhead's Beheaded, and the new Lambchop.

Neil and Erik and I went to the Twin Cities this weekend to inspect Neil's stolen, and now found, car. Story to come later.

June 17, 2000

Chris passed on this post. It "only" sold two million copies, and that's a debacle. If ever there were a reason to hate the music industry...

June 16, 2000

Hmmm... this Zorn album, recommended by the Mr. Bungle clowns in their "Gallery of Essentials," is dedicated to Walter Bejamin. Not the Arcades Project one, you suppose?

Mingus tributes: earlier, mid, later.

John Zorn's jump-cut compositions borrow their organizational notions from film: the music switches quickly between what we usually consider to be unrelated kinds of music, the way that post-Godard (and Eisenstein?) film juxtaposes disparate images to get a new effect. Mr. Bungle's music does something similar, though I don't know if they picked the idea up from Zorn or movies or elsewhere (or it just happened that they said, "hey, let's write a song like this"). Both Zorn and Bungle do a lot of their jumping between genres, though. Though it seems as if the main melody of "None of Them Knew They Were Robots" carries through the genre switches, I'm starting to have trouble distinguishing more normal musical development from the development of separate themes (for example, the metal part has different music than the fast boogie, but later they start to mix more and more). So maybe my question is misguided, but I'm wondering: is there music that takes this manic jump-cut structure, but applies it within a single genre, jumping instead between different music in that genre?

June 15, 2000

Recent acquisitions:

  • Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
  • Ornette Coleman - The Complete Science Fiction Sessions
  • Charles Mingus - Mingus Dynasty
  • Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante
  • Photek - Risc vs. Reward

... and brief comments:

The Modest Mouse is very good, but still I don't think it will have much impact on anything besides the indie rock fans who buy it. I'm presently trying to figure out just how good it is.

The Ornette is not what I was expecting, but then I'm not sure what I was expecting since I've only heard Free Jazz. Now the connection usually made between Zorn's Masada group and Ornette's music is obvious to me; take any fast-speed Masada song, and compare to any of the high-speed free-bop-ish numbers here. Other than that, it seems rewarding but it will take a while for me to get used to it. Already though, I can see more why Ornette is considered one of the last big greats, for a long time, after Davis and Coltrane.

Listening to the Mingus right now. It's GRATE. This man was a genius. More later.


Another jazz "review" up: Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. It doesn't really talk about either track I picked, but so what. In fact, it does the incredibly music-critic-y thing and talks only about the liner notes. Have I no shame? No. Mostly not. Just go buy it and love it, it's good.

With her answers to my album-liking question, Cristina led me into saying this: "liking" has different grammars. At least that's what Wittgenstein would say. Yeah, that's right. We don't just read pre-Socratic philosophy so you don't have to, we read iconoclastic twentieth century oracular philosophy so you don't have to, too. But you should read Wittgenstein, really.

The above doesn't really satisfyingly answer my questions about liking albums vs. liking songs, but it's a good reminder; more interesting to me, though, are the things about familiarity, which somewhat dovetail with what I had to say recently about getting to like an album over time.

Since Tom mentioned them recently, here are Steve Albini's Eyewitness Record Reviews. Tendentious statement he makes: that record reviewers are at a disadvantage due to not knowing the conditions under which records were recorded, i.e. "fancy" production (really, "any" production with Steve-o). This betrays a preference (as if it weren't obvious from everything else he says) for the hoary old live-performance rock and recording model. What reasons are there to have this preference?

June 14, 2000

Courtney Love talks about record labels, Napster, etc. etc. etc. Nothing all that new, but it's good to see it all in once place, and coming out a musician's mouth.

I'm not sure how helpful or not Marc Sabatella's Jazz Improvisation Primer is for musicians, but it has a wealth of information about just what it is jazz musicians claim to be doing when they improvise, whether or not you can hear it yourself. A good educational tool for listeners, I think.

Atlantic Monthly article about Ornette Coleman, and another about John Zorn.

Brent D. said a bit back about the new Modest Mouse album:

The epic "The Stars are Projectors" furthers the future of rock in grand gestures. Shifting between acoustic interludes and searing guitar over pounding drums, lyrics postulate the Descartian notion that our world is merely an elaborate dreamscape. Pretty sharp for Northwestern punks.

So I am understandably disappointed that he didn't catch the reference (probably unintentional, sigh) in the first track, "3rd planet," to pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides, whose argment that the universe is a static oneness with no distinctions of space or time has been read as stating that the universe is a giant sphere. See for yourself, in lyrics from the end of the song:

The universe is shaped exactly like the earth if you go
straight long enough you'll end up where you were

Here at josh blog we read pre-Socratic philosophy, so you don't have to.

An article on Miles from 1971.

June 13, 2000

Coincidentally, last night I saw a Charlie Rose rerun from 1998 where Charlie was talking to Springsteen about his then-new boxed set. The Boss talked for a bit about how he's often so excited about new songs, he just has to get them out and perform them right away, so that would explain part of your reaction to the new one, possibly.

I'm not sure what's going on. I think Fred is upset about the Bon Jovi thing. Sheesh. Prick a Bon Jovi fan, they don't just bleed - they fucking GUSH!

Gasp! What? Tom sez: "In this case, no more lists in Freaky Trigger." This, from the man who's egged me into making lists?

More list talk. Yea Tom. All this thinking about lists depresses me, though; I feel as if I haven't lived enough to make a whole decade list. 10 years ago I was 12 - not the age to pick up great music at. I wasted a lot of time in the landlocked, taste-locked Midwest, and in adolescence, but what's more I wasted a lot of time buying things from other decades! Maybe in 2010...

When I check, though, I find around 65% of my albums were released in the 90s. Hmmm.

What if my roommate wants to listen? Or is it normally illegal for me to let him borrow CDs, too? Maybe someday they can extend this technology to books, videos, and maybe even Tupperware and dish soap - so no one can use anything they didn't pay for.

Fred had better watch it - if people find out he owns all that stuff, he's going to lose his "most pop" status. We'll celebrate by giving him a Smog album. And then some free jazz.

More talk about Tom's list (best he never thought people would talk this much about the LP list). I think two things are being forgotten here: 1) Tom's list was professly personal. A lot of other lists (like the Signal Drench one) aim for importance, etc. Well I tell you what, there aren't any damn Beck albums on my decade list, and if that's the kind of thing that happens when people make personal lists, good. I'd much rather find out about Japanese psychedelia, e.g. 2) How could people not have GRATE stuff like Spiritualized or the Orb, to name two of the most prominent ones? Clearly there is no accounting for taste; these don't just have British appeal.

Little lyrical analysis today: in "O'Malley's Bar" Nick Cave mentions Saint Sebastian:

And as I shot down the youthful Richardson
It was St. Sebastian I thought of, and his arrows

St. Sebastian was the last Christian to suffer martyrdom before Christianity became acceptable under Constantine. His tomb is small, because practice of the day was to break the legs of dead adults before burying them. "Arrows" refers to the arrows Sebastian was shot with at his martyrdom. In what the Vatican must have some time way back when taken to be an incredibly coy bit of irony, Sebastian is the patron saint of archers.

Coincidentally, Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima once had himself photographed as St. Sebastian, arrows and everything. Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea features a fucked-up kid who kills cats and other things for fun (or perhaps no reason, really). Connection? Probably not. But oh well. At least I got some use out of that horribly unsatisfying book.

By the way, no offense to practicing Catholics, but you've got some weird shit going on. I mean, there's a patron saint for rheumatism and one for stammering children and FOUR for disappointing children?.

Aw, is Tom the only one who likes whole records (OK, OK, I guess Mark wrote two reviews)? No one else has replied yet to my query below. Humor me; I know (this is why I started keeping stats, see) there are more people out there than that visiting regularly. My people tell me so. I'm not looking for anything especially profound; just a little information-gathering. And I promise not to sell it to any evil marketing wonks.

June 12, 2000

More PSF stuff: more tributes than you can shake a stick at. The ones I know of seem well-done, and those on unfamiliar artists are great and informative.

People associated with Mr. Bungle offer their Gallery of Essentials.

Great overview of Funkadelic.

"Behold, I am Funkadelic. I am not of your
world. But fear me not, I will do you no harm.
Loan me your funky mind and I shall play with
it. For nothing is good unless you play with it.
And all that is good, is nasty!"

- "What Is Soul," Funkadelic, 1969

Today I have been captivated by the ending sequence on Mogwai's Young Team, namely: "R U Still in 2 It," "Cheery Wave from Stranded Youngsters," and "Mogwai Fear Satan." What if they played this when you got on a plane, with the last kicking in during takeoff?

It never struck me before I saw all the hep webloggers linking to Tom's LPs of the decade list to go down the list, finding the ones I own; I noticed, of course, which ones I knew and loved, but everyone seems to be making little lists. So, what the hell: 2, 3, 7, 10, 15, 22, 23, 31, 40, 42, 43, 67, 83, 88, 95, 96. Obviously we've spent the 90s listening to different things. :)

Review of AAS which talks about an interview the band took part in:

At the end of the interview, the NPR reporter asked if the members of American Analog Set considered themselves to be a punk rock band. The band members chuckled -- they, too, had seemed a little befuddled by their encounter with public radio. But the reporter's question made something clear, about her, about us. As for her, it proved that she had crossed generational and cultural gaps and somehow understood, deep down, what this was all about. And as for us, it showed that punk-rock values don't always have to screech and blare, but can sneak up almost silently and hit just as hard.

MJ Hibbetts' article at Freaky Trigger touches a lot on humor in pop music. I've had these thoughts before - maybe here, not sure - but they're worth thinking about again:

A lot of humor - that tending more to the "joke" part of humor - relies a lot on what a professor of mine once called "surprise/of course," which he was talking about relative to short stories, but which holds just as well for jokes. Understanding "surprise/of course" is easy: just think of the part right around the punchline to any good joke you remember (if you can remember them - I'm pretty bad at it). You're surprised to hear the punchline, but then it's funny because of how it relates to something earlier in the joke (or maybe it's a dada kind of funny, in that it doesn't relate: here I always remember third trombone player from jazz band Clay Scarborough's favorite joke, "Why did the chicken cross the road? [pause] I'm a tree!!!") - something which, once you hear it, has a certain kind of inevitability to it - "of course!"

Needless to say, when someone tells you a joke you don't generally want to hear the same joke again fifty times in a row. Which presents a problem for pop music that wants to use jokes, because people tend to listen repeatedly to pop music, when it's really good.

There are less jokelike aspects of humor that can make pop music funny. Frank Zappa was in my opinion often funny, but usually not through very jokelike elements of his music (including lyrics, which incidentally is where more humor is found, I think; not always true of Zappa, cf. a reggae-ized version of "Ring of Fire," the off-speed vocals on much of We're Only in It For the Money, etc. etc.). His humor stemmed from (a) his goofy vocals, (b) dadaist, surrealistic juxtapositions, such as a band unison line straight out of Stravinsky followed by dirty seventies rock and lyrics about dental floss farmers from Montana riding little tiny horses, and (c) his "Conceptual Continuity;" reinforcing what would otherwise be isolated instances of weirdness by connecting them together, thus making the entire thing stranger than any normal music with or without references to sex with robots and a man whose crime is giving enemas to young co-eds.

Humor like this is tougher, though; too often it's chalked up to irony, which quickly becomes overbearing; or it overcomes its purveyors, damning them to be savant drug casualties filed under "novelty rock" (cf. Ween). When it's not as funny this kind of humor turns into oddness; Cake aren't especially funny but by now their blend of morose I'm-a-loser songs, automobile paeans, and country-dork-funk (with occasional forays into hip-hop) might be well-regarded enough to get them past the novelty label slapped on songs like "Rock and Roll Lifestyle" and "The Distance," and away from geek favorites like They Might Be Giants.

Ah, then there's "black humor," the kind I find myself almost never laughing at. I think Nick Cave is sometimes very funny (not for those reasons, shut up). People tend to look at me funny when I laugh at lines like

"I have no free will," I sang
As I flew about the murder
Mrs. Richard Holmes, she screamed
You really should have heard her
I sang and I laughed, I howled and I wept
I panted like a pup
I blew a hole in Mrs. Richard Holmes
And her husband he stood up

And he screamed, "You are an evil man"
And I paused a while to wonder
"If I have no free will then how can I
Be morally culpable, I wonder"

or also from "O'Malley's Bar,"

And with an ashtray as big as a fucking big brick

delivered sing-song, in a cross between a musical's patter-talk and gangsta rap's laconic simultaneous cataloging and glorification of violence (especially the latter line, Cave depicting the protagonist at the height of his sputtering, snarling rampage, unable to avoid repeating himself in the simile).

#154. Yow, yes, a great single review. God.

Quote ripped from a Sonicnet show review, referring to the Dirty Three's practice of introducing songs with explanations of their geneses:

The intro to the last song summed things up perfectly: "This is a song about having a child with Siouxsie Sioux from the Banshees. Getting involved in a weird tryst of love with Robert Smith and Meat Loaf and Siouxsie Sioux and giving birth to Ian Curtis. And you're really proud of him and there is a twin and it's Robert Smith and you're kind of bummed out about that 'cause he's ahh, really fucked. And so every time you hear The Cure on the radio you decide that you're gonna go out and shoot yourself in the head and you realize that you've shot yourself too many times and your son's a fucking idiot and so you decide to write a song.

This is called 'Mick's Love Song,' "Ellis concluded. "Or, 'Robert Smith Ain't My Child.' "

More D3 song intros.

June 11, 2000

Paging through Ocean of Sound I'm having trouble finding things, and the index doesn't seem to be helping. So I took some notes; thought they might be useful to someone else. Nothing fancy, just the main subjects of the chapters.

  1. sound and evocation; Muzak, ambience and aethereal culture; Brian Eno and perfume; Bali, Java, Debussy
  2. travels in the outer imagination with Sun Ra
  3. ambient in the 1990s; Scanner, John Cage, acid house, disco; AMM; Telepathic Fish, Biosphere, Mixmaster Morris, Land of Oz, The Orb, The KLF
  4. noise and silence, myth and reality; electrical war and the Futurists; Edgard Varese and Charlie Parker
  5. Michael Mann and Tangerine Dream; Frank Sinatra; dead zone recordings; Alice Coltrane; Roland Kirk; Jimi Hendrix; Miles Davis; Karlheinz Stockhausen; Bow Gamelan; James Brown; Brian Wilson; Lee Perry; dub; Brian Eno
  6. Brian Eno; Bill Laswell; Don Cherry; Derek Bailey; Leo Smith; ambient; John Cage; Harold Budd; Daniel Lanois; Japanese sound design
  7. John Hassell; Pandit Pran Nath; Duke Ellington
  8. La Monte Young; Marian Zazeela; Velvet Underground; Yoko Ono, Richard Maxfield, West Coast jazz, Indian vocal music, Terry Riley
  9. Ryuichi Sakamoto; Erik Satie; Kraftwerk
  10. dreams, electronics; Aphex Twin; global techno
  11. bionics, shamanism and nature; singing sands; the Orinoco; holy minimalism and whales; Pauline Oliveros; reverberation; Alvin Lucier and sound art
  12. World Soundscape Project; Thomas Köner; Hans Jenny; Plunderphonics; progressive rock; Paul Schütze
  13. David Lynch; John Lilly; Kate Bush; David Sylvian; shamanism; ambient; information ocean

I'm having a very gosh-Eno-is-a-genius day.

Live Plan (plus some other junk). [from pearls]

Tonight, idly flipping on the radio, I found KURE dead when I expected otherwise. So I schlepped in and did a 5.5 hour set. Since I was going out of my way and I never get any callers anyway (except the guy who asks for Korn and Aqua songs; it's been months since the people called with the computer-generated voice boasting about its ten-inch tongue that girls really liked), I felt fine sidestepping my normally schizophrenic playlist (the more singleminded hosts seem to be more popular...) and playing whole albums, album sides, half-hour blocks, and so on. So I played disc 1 of Masada's Live in Jerusalem, AAS' The Golden Band, "Mogwai Fear Satan," some Cat Power from The Covers Record, all of Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s debut, and all of the Macha Loved Bedhead EP. During the latter I said I would head home unless anyone wanted to hear more, and sure enough someone did. So I spent half an hour playing Macha, Bedhead, Labradford and Low, and then the last half hour finishing off Macha's excellent, excellent See It Another Way which I must acquire soon. So...

1) It was nice to know someone was listening and liking specific things I played; that happens from time to time, but my typical schizophrenia throws people off.

2) I often play long songs or occasionally blocks of songs, more often the former, which most of my DJ peers think is just silly or weird, I think. Tonight was the most I've ever stretched out; more like I would listen to music at home - and, I think, more like how many people listen to music at home. It's a pity that radio is so singles-oriented. Wasn't part of the original intent behind FM radio (and I know I could look it up, but I've been through the FCC web site before though and it's not pretty) that new markets could be opened, and that longer things could be played? I would like to think that eight minute versions of "Enter Sandman" are not at the limits of FM radio listeners' attention spans. College radio in particular has the opportunity to do things like, oh, play entire American Analog Set albums, without pissing off a lot of listeners wanting to hear something different every four minutes, or interrupting for commercial messages. I almost never hear programming of this sort on my own station, aside from when techno shows mix continuously for long periods of time (which though not my thing is similar to what I'm talking about, and good for them). I wonder about other stations...

Sometime in my teens, I one night discovered that KGGO, the local dominant rock station at the time ("the best classic rock, and the best of today's rock" - i.e. AOR, lamer AOR by geezers, and the odd modern rock as long as it wasn't too modern), played an entire album at 3 AM. I can't remember if it was every day or once a week, but I was overjoyed to get the chance to hear albums whole that I had never heard, and to hear things outside of their narrowly prescribed playlists. It occurred to me immediately what potential this had for tapers - whole albums, uninterrupted by commercials, for the taking. It was too late at night for me to really take advantage of though, plus a lot of it was just crap (like I wanted my own staticky tape of a Foreigner album).

At the time I was mostly past my tape-dubbing years, having moved to CD and thus newly sick of the tape hiss (also, I didn't buy a fly new tape deck when I upgraded, so tapes still went on the shitty boombox). So that wasn't made me think immediately of taping; it was my first memories of really paying attention to music. Well, "really" being relative. Sometime between ages 10-12, I started listening a lot to the local top 40 station, Q102, and becoming attached to various songs. At the earliest, before I somehow procured a radio with attached tape recorder of my own (it was a birthday gift, I think), I would lay in front of the speaker to my parents' old stereo (never used for anything, a short stack of LPs collecting dust along with my mom's apparently untouched tape copies of Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman and, inexplicably, two copies of the Stones' Goats Head Soup) with an old tape recorder (the self-contained kind with a big sliding thing as the record control) with a condenser mic, grabbing my preferred tunes off of Casey Kasem's countdown. Back then, music purchases were expensive - my allowance, if indeed I had one then, was scant and I wasn't working yet. So I was incredibly stingy; I recall liking Michael Jackson, circa Bad, and starting to think once five or so singles had been released (probably to #1 too), that I could shell out the money and not end up with a lousy album. But, I reasoned, maybe if I waited I could snag all the songs off the radio, and not have to buy it at all...

"Westernhomes is supposed to be, in part, a dialogue, between me, readers of the site, and other music writing on the web," Mark says. Word. Also, he's kindly responding to my query below about the track-to-track strongness of favorite albums, with whole reviews: today Elvis Costello's debut and Built to Spill's Perfect From Now On.

June 10, 2000

An American Analog Set interview and an excellent article about "snorecore" at Perfect Sound Forever.

Showing incredible restraint, for the first time in months I am going to write a bit about music on my own computer, and hold on to it for a while before posting it here. Trust me - this is for your own protection.

June 9, 2000

72 years ago (1928) on June 10, In Dialogues, Alfred North Whitehead wrote: "Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern."

I disagree, but there you go. Note that old Al's assertion should in no way be taken to represent the views of the average philosopher, or mathematician. Who says they know where it's at?

I never noticed before that monosyllabic is done by a guy who writes for Pitchfork; it has good music writing but more importantly offers a chance to make a distinction between a more public face and a private-er one.

A fair response from westernhomes:

Josh blog responds to my already controversial Modest Mouse review with some questions about "working" when listening to albums. "Why shouldn't it be work?" he asks. Well, Josh, what I meant to say (and perhaps this wasn't entirely clear) is that the "work" the listener has to put in on The Moon And Antarctica isn't, in my opinion, necessary. An intense listen to Gastr Del Sol's Upgrade And Afterlife or Sonic Youth's EVOL or several other records will reward you with a deeper understanding/connection to the music; listening to the new Modest Mouse album, however, is like trying to listen to an album with a kettle whistling or your sister playing the piano in the other room. I'm using the term "work" to mean payoff-less sifting through extraneous sound that adds nothing to the experience of the album as a whole. I don't think listening hard to an album, or listening multiple times, counts as "work." I enjoy music too much.

I'm happy to hear this, and sorry I didn't get that reading the first time, if it was me misreading. But I kindly suggest a rephrasing, then: if the extra production, etc. on the Modest Mouse make it tedious to listen to, then so be it; tedium and work are two different things, though. Ideally - but perhaps not given how most people must work these days, standing behind counters or sitting behind desks, etc. etc.

Tom says, responding to my request below:

But there are records I adore which have a lot of flawed tracks (most Pixies albums have a knock-off or two) or even an outright stinker (that godawful long ballad on Blood On The Tracks)

What's different about them, though, on the albums? I want to say that there's a difference between not liking a song or thinking it's "duff" (heh), and hearing it on an album that, as a whole, you like. Kind of like this: I like to watch the Simpsons. But I'm bothered by the countless hordes of Simpsons nerds (check out S.N.P.P.) who are compelled to rate every episode, hold it up against their favorites, and then trash basically any episode since season 7, or whenever their cutoff is, for being tired or too dependent on dumb-Homer plots, or too surreal, or not surreal enough... when just the experience of watching that single episode, and trying to enjoy it, is more worthwhile at that moment than sitting there griping. The parallel is between slower tracks on albums. Today while walking I was listening to Sonic Youth's Dirty, to some track somewhere in the middle. It struck me that nothing particularly interesting, in my opinion, was happening - lots of noise from Thurston and Lee and chug-chug-chug from Kim and Steve. The experience felt different from a "this is a bad (or at least 'not good') song" experience.

I still haven't explained what I think I want to mean, with all this, but maybe this works better. Thanks for sticking with it. Maybe I should be reading more "H" philosophers. You know, Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl. Ack.

Looking back, it's hard to believe NYLPM is only about two months old.

Please read and respond:

Think about the CDs you like the most; they can be current favorites or all time favorites, or whatever. For the most part, do you like every single song on them, or are there some you sort of abide by until something better comes along? Feel free to elaborate to make your response clearer (especially if my question assumes too much). Also, try to include a bit about albums you like, but which might not make your favorite albums ever. Try to distinguish between liking each song as a single, and as part of an album.

Mail your answers to me.

I ask because I'd like to think some more about how different people like different things, on an album-long level.

This Salon article has a bit to say about Eminem and authenticity.

Tom sez:

i) His method of growing into a piece of music (apologies for crass summarisation) still doesn't solve the so-much-music so-little-time problem: there is simply too much music around even to try everything you might want to out, let alone listen yourself into liking it, and even if there was where would that leave the music that you've 'got' to your satisfaction and might want to play for pleasure?

ii) I can't reading the article see any way for Josh to dislike a piece of music. Which plainly he does, and quite often.

i) Funny, but I still seem to have plenty of time for both. I was thinking about this, relative to (ii), and part of it might be my wait-and-see attitude: if something doesn't strike me, I'll just put it aside. I don't really think of it as good or bad (shorthand for "liked" or "dislike"), just sort of "neither yet." Maybe my tastes aren't as diverse as they could be because of this, but I don't think they are. (If you want to call me out on that, I'd appreciate the more obejctive viewpoint.)

ii) To look into this I looked back through my CD database (yes, I'm a geek, sue me) to see which things I'd bought recently I don't like. I went more than 100, maybe 200 discs back, and couldn't really come up with anything. I found things I wasn't struck my, and set aside (see (i) above). There were a few maybes, like Minor Threat's Discography, but even that I'll wait on. So maybe the lesson is, I tend to not like things I just hear here or there. If I buy it, I'm serious about liking it, eventually. That's why I've had problems lately with the musical-hate-blog. These are the kinds of criticisms I make of things I dismiss out of hand, after hearing them only a handful of times.

Maybe I'm not taking enough chances with what I buy?

I've played two Arab Strap songs from Elephant Shoe this week on the radio, but am still puzzled: is all their music made with the low-fi beats? The AMG are unhelpful, in failing to describe what any of this actualy sounds like, you know, like what things are in the music (though they do note the cello parts). I don't really mind - kind of getting to like the beats - but I sense they would be different, perhaps more in line with my existing tastes, without them. Plus a beatless Arab Strap would fit better with my expectations, based on Aidan Moffat's guest vocals for Mogwai.

It gets kind of muddled, but here are a big mess of thoughts on listening prompted by all the recent hate.

From an rmb post:

This jazz classic may be found on Napster or at Availability on Napster is sort of catch-can. The FTP site is much more reliable. Although it has a .com URL, it is not a commercial site. Instead, it is an educational site dedicated to the advancement of jazz as a cultural art form at the international level. It has a growing archive of jazz materials for the serious jazz fan, student and scholars. Anyone interested in the study of jazz should check it out.

As Fred points out, fivesongs shows promise.

Westernhomes doesn't like the new Modest Mouse. And he finishes off his interview with a notion

Ultimately, listening to a rock and roll record shouldn't have to seem like work.

that I find problematic to say the least. Why shouldn't it be work? Is it because it's "just" a rock and roll record? Or because, more broadly, it's ostensibly entertainment? Some of the most rewarding music I know is music I had to work at, music I had to come to terms with because it didn't do anything for me, or because I didn't like it at first. [The rest of it is no less rewarding, in general, though it was more immediate.] Music is, I think, one of the most immediate art forms; this seems to make people think they have license to ignore it or trash it when it doesn't speak to them immediately. At least, popular music. The party line on classical music is that it's supposed to take hard listening and adaptation, though they're never clear on how much or when - it's all supposed to be harder than pop music, but Mahler is harder than Mozart, and some like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are said to be "universal," which sort of implies that you needn't work that hard. But even the classical wonks don't like to listen that hard - if it doesn't play by the rules, there's no helping it (cf. most "serious" music written after WWII) - though sometimes they come around (cf. "Rite of Spring"). Despite the complications classical adds, most other art forms are more accomodating of the idea that the reader/viewer/listener shouldn't get off without a sweat. This may be due to their academization and cordoning off behind the velvet rope dividing high art from low. But what if there's more?

David Toop interviewed at motion about his Sonic Boom exhibit.

Also at motion, an interview with Paul Bley - includes fascinating tidbits about the music industry, improvisation, and more.

Pop fans need not click.

June 8, 2000

Now here's some musical hate: Pat Metheny on Kenny G.

Screw you Fred, it sounds good.

Tom asks: "how come nobody wants 'classical music' to try and approach the frankly staggeringly wide 'emotional landscape' mapped out over 50 years of guitar rock (and other pop forms)?"

Yes, this is the weakest point in the review; I think on the one hand it's pointless to make these comparisons, because pop music and, say, a symphony do different things, have different goals, different devices for meeting them. On the other hand, it's sort of considered pointless to hope classical music could try anything like what Tom suggests, since they're all a bunch of stuffed shirts. It's sad that going the other direction is considered august and everything, but oh well. Also, what about Glenn Branca?

I don't feel like writing today. Anything.

Late-coming review of Mogwai EP from Pitchfork. I give them higher than a 25% hit rate, but oh well. It solves no mysteries, but does a good job elucidating the confusion many people experience: how could something so blindingly obvious (slow pretty songs with cacophonous noise here and there, etc.) still be so great?

You know what I really hate? I just read a bunch of reviews, and now I want to listen to like 50 CDs at once. Which is plainly impossible. Or at least impractical.

Since I never seemed to get DJs to play my requests when I was younger, it especially pleases me to see the current CMJ top 20, 7 of which I've played recently on my own show.

In a Glenn Branca interview at hyperreal, Branca said this, which endears him to me immediately.

"Recently, about a year and a half ago I wrote an opera, which I think of mainly as a choral opera. I loved the sound of the chorus, I like that kind of resonance. I don't really like highly articulated solo voice, the traditional operatic voice. I like a more church-like quality".

(I hate the traditional operatic voice.)

Here's another Branca interview from Carbon 14.

A summary of what happened at Altamont.

Even this extensive Who history only briefly mentions the famous trampling deaths of eleven at a 1979 concert.

June 7, 2000

Zach Hooker has had a Pynchon fixation lately.

Cat always has the best links.

Read the Salon article, then Tom's response. Let's just say I like the first single, but yesterday I bought the new King Crimson rather than the new Eminem.

I wrote a letter to the Plan and told them how much they rocked and how I was sorry I didn't dance more at their great show. So after that I did an experiment and thrashed around in my room (not much, and with the headphones up really fucking loud - it is 3 AM; then again, my roommate resembles a zombie after bedtime) to "Girl O'Clock." I tell you what, it was great. Do it.

Excellent quote by Marcin Gokieli snipped from a discussion of notation and eastern music on the Zorn list:

Well, i think that this talk about complicated music complicates the issue. Just notate a BBKing solo and give it to a guitarist to play. You'll see the limitations of notation.

Mike ruminates on "rock is dead":

"Rock is dead." Nobody ever establishes criteria for a future state of rock's deadness. Nobody ever says "I'll know rock is dead when such-and-such state of affairs holds"; the meaning of the death of rock & roll is always explicated after the fact, never before.

What do we mean when we say that rock music - or any music - is "dead," anyway? That the music no longer is interesting? That it no longer innovates? That nobody makes it anymore? That the current stuff people call rock music is actually a betrayal of the principles of the folks who created the stuff in the first place?

Is any of this true? And more importantly, even if it is true, why should I give a shit?

Reynolds' metaphor seems to indicate he thinks the over-arching "rock" is played out, which sort of lends itself to the betrayal-of-first-principles interpretations. Because as he admits, there's still plenty of "bustling vitality," when you focus in on the "micro-scenes." So there's interesting rock music, and innovative rock music - being made today. [Go to the Dismemberment Plan concert, Tom!] Somehow, though, these micro-genres don't add up to a whole rock tree (metaphors getting muddled here): there's supposed to be something else about rock, in its larger (less-specific?) form, that the micro-genres don't get at.

If you figure out just what that is, drop me a line, because I'm stumped.

I'll take a stab at it anyway, though. In his article on post-rock, Reynolds tried to define it by opposing it to a traditional conception of rock that seemed good to him:

The best way to get a handle on how these groups depart from the 'rock process' is to work from a rigorous model of how the traditional rock 'n' roll group operates. And there's none more rigorous than Joe Carducci's Rock And The Pop Narcotic (published in 1990 by Redoubt, with a revised edition planned for later this year). Carducci may be a bit of a reactionary, but his theory of rock is grounded in a precise, materialist definition of it as music, rather than 'attitude', 'spirit', 'rebellion', or any other metaphysical notions. Rock's essence, says Carducci, is the real time interaction of drums, bass and rhythm guitar. A group should be a rhythmic engine creating kinetic energy; 'breathing' as an organic entity.

Carducci valorises the strenuous, collective physicality of performance. His ideal rock process is opposed to the Pop Method, which is studio based and elevates the producer over the musicians. Modern music is a sterile, frigid wasteland because the producer/studio ('cold') has triumphed over rock ('hot'). With a typically American prejudice, Carducci favours the 'presence' of live performance over the increasingly 'virtual' nature of studio music, and prefers the 'documentarian' recording techniques that characterised early 70s hard rock, which were revived by Spot, house producer at SST, the seminal 80s hardcore punk label that Carducci co-founded.

He goes on to talk a lot about machines and man-machine interfaces, lots of cyborg mumbo-jumbo (did he lift this stuff from Donna Haraway?). But through it all he makes it clear the Rock with a big "r", the tradition, the prototype, the archetype, is something human, live, performance-based, with "real" instruments, and so forth.

But then why is it supposed to be dead? I feel like I'm moving in circles, but I can cite plenty of examples of great "rock" music being made in the past 5-10 years (which I consider "current"). Does this music not count because Reynolds is tired of it? Not historically unprecedented enough? I care about matters like that, but what matters to me most when I'm listening is how it sounds right then, not whether or not Slint or Neu! or the Beatles have done it before.

There is of course another answer: Reynolds, as he often does, is talking shit.

June 6, 2000

Today I noticed while listening to Kool Keith's Black Elvis/Lost in Space that its vocals seem a LOT higher in the mix than any of the other rap I've listened to. Which maybe accounts for why the production seems kind of muted to me - all the other stuff is underneath the voice.

Mike discusses Simon Reynolds:

Reynolds says that it's unlikely that E won't have an effect on hip-hop, and while I agree, I find the particular form of his enthusiasm suspicious. Throughout his recent writings Reynolds expresses his total dismay that we aren't living in the total musical revolution that was rave/techno in its glory years: now he seems reduced to looking under every nook and cranny for the seeds of the next one. Me, I can stand not living in a musical revolution, especially if you call the situation we're in now non-revolutionary times.

This is exactly what's bothered me about a lot of the Reynolds I've read: he's totally behind his hoped-for all-around electronic music revolution, but along with that support he has to treat anything not revolutionary enough for him as tired, old, worthless, dead, hopelessly dated. Good for him, and maybe appropriate for the way he writes and thinks about music, but it seems needlessly myopic in the bigger picture. Old music dies hard, and comes back in ways we never expect. And new musical developments are often not so revolutionary as they seem at first. Or at least not as overtly revolutionary, or in the ways we expect.

Besides making what sound like some incredibly anti-pop statements (no wonder Fred beat him out), Tom asks if there's music we can't imagine popping up in ads. Pan Sonic? Well, I can see it. Sonic Youth from Goodbye 20th Century? I can see it. Probably Swans' Public Castration is a Good Idea will never make it on any commercials. Or Coltrane's Interstellar Space.

I notice he's also saying "last decade" to refer to the 90s. Knock it off, you'll make me feel old.

In passing Tom mentions he spent a pound ninety nine on a CD single. Is this typical for the UK? Or the US, even? Everywhere I see CD singles (which are scarce), they're anywhere from 6 to 10 bucks, which is so not worth it unless you're already a fan.

Jon made a mixtape and is now having doubts about the morality of (a) misrepresenting bands on mixtapes, and (b) fooling mixtape recipients into liking artists by reeling them in slowly via mixtape tracks. I for one have no qualms with covert action of this sort. Give in, Jon. Stick Coltrane tracks in the middle of lesbifolk (you're going to get yourself in trouble one of these days, coining words; "fuckability" will redeem you for a long time to come though) mixes. Work Dismemberment Plan tracks into tapes until she can stand his voice. Gradually move from bluesy Waits to weird German carnival music Waits. It's all good; she might not know that yet. That's what you're there for. :)

Last summer my then-girlfriend went to China, and I made her some mixtapes. Here's what was on the first one. I'm not particularly proud of this tape, now - it was the first I ever made, being a latecomer to the whole nasty business, besides which it was combining the job of reminding her of me, including things she liked, and expanding her musical tastes (cf. above comments about covertness). So it's a little confused.


The lyrics to the Bjork made it fiting for a mixtape between lovers. Other than that this side featured lots of things I liked, on reflection - though she liked Radiohead (not "Polyethylene" in particular, not having heard it). The CGT track is an acoustic guitar trio covering the Santo and Johnny oldie, a beautiful little ditty. Anna was typically annoyed with Zappa, but not always (I swear, he was growing on her...) - in this, the outro to Joe's Garage, Zappa (as the CENTRAL SCRUUUUTINIZER) comes out from behind his megaphone to sing the final song, which breaks down at various places while the band sings about what good musicans they are, talks about how groovy Warren Cucurullo is, gives advice to listeners in countries with gasoline-powered turntables, and so forth. In a reggae sort of thing. How could she not love that, I ask you?


  • Yo La Tengo - Blue Line Swinger - Electr-o-pura
  • Firewater - Bourbon and Division - Get Off the Cross... We Need the Wood for the Fire
  • John Zorn - Zenan - Masada Dalet
  • The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five - Time Out
  • Van Morrison - Moondance - Moondance
  • Tom Waits - Chocolate Jesus - Mule Variations
  • Tortoise - A Survey - Millions Now Living Will Never Die
  • Soul Coughing - Screenwriter�s Blues - Ruby Vroom
  • King Crimson - Discipline - Discipline

The YLT in a weird spot, beginning rather than ending. I haven't heard the tape in a long time so I don't know if that worked out, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. She loved Tod A.'s and Tom Waits' voices, thus the Firewater and Waits tracks. The rest was generally me again. So selfish!

She liked it, though, and I suppose that's what's important. Yeah, sure.

I made another tape after that, with more of a theme - songs in waltz time, or at least, enough like it (say 6/8) that I was confused into thinking they were. Or, that at least have some waltz time - I think some of them switch time signatures, and the Dirty Three's notion of "time" is nebulous enough that it's sometimes hard to say if they've really got a beat to keep time to.

In order to have more than no design values at all, I did the case sleeve in Russian on my computer, translating all the titles, badly, into their Russian equivalents when possible, and transliterating otherwise. I think I axed a few songs because I couldn't find good translations, which shows how caught up I was in that part of the mess.

"zvuki na 3/4 chas"

SIDE A: 42.28

  • Bob Dylan - Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands - Blonde on Blonde
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - West Country Girl - The Boatman's Call
  • Built to Spill - Velvet Waltz - Perfect from Now On
  • Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Another Day Full of Dread - I See a Darkness
  • Dirty Three - Deep Waters - Ocean Songs

Note how little regard I gave to lyrical content. Some would worry about putting Will Oldham songs about psychotic hillbillies on mixtapes to their faraway girlfriends. I, however, showed remarkable consistency in picking songs that I, first and foremost (who was this thing for, anyway?), liked.

SIDE B: 44.88

  • The Flaming Lips - The Abandoned Hospital Ship - Clouds Taste Metallic
  • Red House Painters - Silly Love Songs - Songs for a Blue Guitar
  • Cat Power - No Sense - Moon Pix
  • Firewater - Isle of Dogs - The Ponzi Scheme
  • Hum - Isle of the Cheetah - Downward is Heavenward
  • Low - Do You Know How to Waltz? - The Curtain Hits the Cast

I couldn't even tell you if any of these songs are bad to give to girlfriends, lyrically speaking. I think the Paul McCartney cover (by RHP) is pro-love, in a dopey sort of way. The Cat Power surely had some lyrics of some sort, meant to be meaningful. The Firewater is probably agressive and fairly anti-love, insofar as gritty post-hardcore klezmer/punk fusions are usually not all that much about love. The others range from fractured and spacy to almost lyricless (though notably still morose and down).

Some songs had their own logic, as far as placement went. The Low song naturally went at the end, being at the end of its source album and just being long and drifty anyway. The Built to Spill song was best placed in the middle of its side, being the loudest. And so on.

I like this tape much more; it felt less forced in the making, and afterward. I just followed my chosen theme and picked songs that went together - there were fewer constraints.

June 5, 2000

Nothing new, but I put all my NYLPM single reviews on a page of their own, since I didn't keep copies of them around anywhere.

Sebastian at Signal Drench responds to Tom's comments on the Signal Drench format change. This isn't meant to reflect on Signal Drench's reviews (I've read a handful since finding the site; they seem nice), but: I don't think it has much to do with the bands being mainstream or indie or whatnot (what a dowdy word (hey, "dowdy" too, come to think of it) (only on josh blog will you be reminded of LISP))). Tom merely advocates, I think, a kind of writing and format that puts music in more perspective, which sort of helps all these countless indie bands avoid being lost in the review shuffle. Because there are a lot - which makes it hard, after a while, to glean information about them from fairly similar sounding reviews.

Daydream Nation review on westernhomes reinforces received view of Sonic Youth's masterpiece, and probably rightly so.

You may recall my rant a bit back about burned CDs and the like, not in particular directed at Atley but obviously inspired by him (by way of Tom, I think). I know it's difficult for younger people (Atley is a senior in high school, maybe?), but ordering online (having credit cards being the prime obstacle) solves all "I can't get that CD anywhere around here" problems. Local stores are usually glad to order things, too, which eliminates most excuses. Just a thought.

Catherine pointed out this interesting link to Feed, more interesting to me because they quote fucking Corey Moss from my school paper. This means that the author either gets the ISU Daily, or reads it online, both of which are reprehensible, or they did "research" online, which is terrible because of the source that they found. Corey Moss is one of the most talentless, pointless columnists I ever had the pleasure to waste thirty seconds reading. But still, thanks to Cat for the link. And also for the link to's music in advertising site. Because you know you like some of those songs, even if you feel sheepish about liking something in an ad. You're such a tool. But we all are; just get used to it.

Rhino was cool enough to put the liner notes to the John Coltrane: Heavyweight Champion boxed set on the web.

New jazz review up today: from Giant Steps, Coltrane's "Countdown".

Activity for today: listen to "Fur Elise" while looking at its matching diagram.

June 4, 2000

On nylpm Robin Carmody talks about Jethro Tull, then reflects on it.

Tom, coincidentally, was mailed the same link I was because "Dismemberment Plan" appears on nylpm. To get him to make up his mind, you should mail him and tell him to go to the London Plan show!

Allison pointed out to me her Dismemberment Plan site.

On the stereo tonight: some of those boring CD things, you know, that TOOLS listen to, and then... nothing but static, "the sound of a radio tuned to a dead channel" (paraphrasing William Gibson), for hours. WSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. It's groovy. Not as groovy as my friend Neil's stereo, whose remote's "TEST" button wooshes alternately between a lower-pitched woosh and a higher-pitched woosh - even cycling around the speakers when in surround sound - but pretty damn groovy, low-tech as it is. I was going to burn a CD of white noise, before I realized that the object of my quest lay right before me, on good old off-the-air KURE.

June 3, 2000

Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov did the music for Andrei Tarkovsky's film Andrei Rublev. I'm on the lookout for some Ovchinnikov, or some music similar to that used in the final scene (possibly 15th century choral music?).

The New York Times slums it with an overview of different genres of electronic music. Seems fairly shallow - mostly, "How to Tell This Genre Apart from That One".

Ellington in Private.

Good news for Bedhead fans:

Bubba and Matt Kadane from Bedhead have formed a new band called The New Year. They will play their first live show on June 17th at TT the Bear's in Cambridge, MA and their second the next night in New York City at Brownies. They will also record a record in July at Steve Albini's studio in Chicago, and Touch and Go will release it, tentatively, in January. Live this band, like Bedhead, will be a five piece, with Chris Brokaw on drums, Mike Donofrio on bass, and Peter Schmidt, the rotating sixth member of Bedhead, on third guitar.

June 2, 2000

I've always been a little bit confused about Glenn McDonald's response to Orbvs Terrarvm:

Even aside from genre context, though, it's hard to know what to say about any album like this. I mean, it's ambient music, so you're sort of supposed to put it on and ignore it. I have tested the suitability of this CD for that function, and judged it mostly adequate, though the final track, "Slvg Dvb", is a little too narrative (is that Beatrix Potter they're reading?) and amusing not to be distracting. Much of the album consists of atmospheric sound composites, but parts are identifiably musical. I think albums like this are cool, but at my level of ambient interest the only reason to have more of them is so that by the time you cycle through all of them, you don't mind hearing the first one again. At nearly 80 minutes in length, this CD serves admirably in that regard. So, now I have an Orb record. Okay.

Yes, ambient is supposed to be ignorable, but also attendable-to.

Periodic Table of Funk.

Suddenly today for some reason it seems like a good idea to me to buy lots more Orb.

Tentative Low tour dates.

Hot pants! Unh!

From Projekt Records:

Robert Fripp is a name that many of you know, from his work with the legendary art rock band King Crimson. Many of you also know that his early 70s collaborations with Brian Eno basically invented the genre of 'ambient music.' For the year 2000, Robert has teamed up with Jeffrey Fayman to release what I can honestly say (in my humble opinion) is one of my favorites of his Fripptronic/Soundscape releases! If you are a fan of the two Fripp & Eno albums (No Pussyfooting and Evening Star), then you must immediately get yourself a copy of the Fayman & Fripp A Temple in the Clouds CD, upon its release on August 22nd. This album will amaze you. It's as if the classic Fripptronics sound has been integrated into a lush looped atmosphere, along the lines of what modern ambient artists are doing. Fripp brings the guitar (and at times the aggression) and Fayman adds electronics, shaping it into an amazing soundscape that will have you headed back to the "play" button as soon as the album is over. Of course I will have more information, photos, & track listing soon; but I wanted to tell you the news, as this is a really important release for us here at Projekt!

I've been hesitant to buy the new King Crimson album, The ConstruKction of Light, but this looks more interesting. The Fripp and Eno collaborations are amazing - pure feedback and echo bliss. Fripp's 90s "soundscapes" work (his own update on it - done with digital looping rather than tapes, and harsher, more atonal - less Eno influence in the production) is also very good, if necessarily less blissful for its dissonance. So the above release could be very good. Not sure what Fayman will contribute, though. It being on Projekt, which I've only encountered with a Black Tape for a Blue Girl album (which I didn't like - in short, too goth, not droney enough), Fayman's presence might not be a good sign. After all, if Fayman didn't have some long-standing association with the label, it seems Fripp would've released this on his own label, Discipline Global Mobile. Complete with exhortations of the music business, and the story of how EG' screwed him over. Again.

Tito Puente died yesterday.

A line in "Stormy Weather" (I'm hearing it on Billie Holiday's Lady in Autumn: The Best of the Verve Years) that always strikes me:

when he went away
the blues walked in and met me

What other examples are there of a mood personified enough that it could walk in and meet someone? [I'm not sure.]

June 1, 2000

I received some interesting mail from Transformed Dreams, a Dutch indie label. I can't quite make it to any of their shows in Amsterdam, etc., but they have some upcoming in the UK, so I thought I'd pass the information on to possibly interested readers.

Ack! Called out by my own friend! Jon, who was at the Plan show mentioned below, had this to say:

True, it was fairly listless. But in the interest of fairness, you should admit your own extravagant listlessness. Did you even tap your foot?

Well, OK. Truly, I pretty much stood there, maybe swayed back and forth slightly. Truth be told, I would have rather sat. I don't see the point to standing at shows (the band before the Plan angrily exhorted everyone to (paraphrasing) "fucking get on your feet," as they weren't happy with the audience response). I'm a reserved person. I'm not into moving my body, getting into music that way.

Given what I've heard of other Plan shows, though, I think people tend to move more at them. I attribute the response at the Iowa City to our regional temperament - people did get into it, but some much less than others.

None of this changes the fact that it probably made things tougher on the Plan. Which I feel sorry for - they did a great job, and it was the best concert I've ever been to. I was planning on writing them a letter, but then this came up.

I did tap my foot a little, Jon. But even when I played music, I didn't like to tap my foot. :)


I hope Atley is, as Tom said, just burning those CDs for "buyers' guide" purposes. I'm still unsure about what I think about burning CDs of major label artists (I don't do it in the meantime), but for indie artists, I am emphatically against it for the purposes of permanent record acquisition.

I saw the Dismemberment Plan in a shitty bar in Iowa City, where they played their hearts out to a typically listless Iowa crowd, sold a few CDs (cf. Sun Ra's "no bullshit C.O.D."), and then took off for another town. Their new album is great, among my favorite - something not every band can do in such a short amount of time. They deserve to be treated better than having their music ripped off. Off the top of my head I know a handful of people that like the Plan (and they all work at my radio station). Go rip off Pearl Jam's new one, or something; at least that won't cut as deeply into their day-to-day livings, their chance to continue making great music.

Um, rant over.

I listened to part of the KLF's White Room tonight. It's an interesting experience, hearing a piece of acid house now, after coming to it via all kinds of ambient music, notably ambient house (from the Orb, who share a member with KLF...). At times I can't help but think "gee, this would make a really good Orb track, if they would slow it down and let it breathe a bit." Other times I get (probably psychosomatic-style) the feeling that I'm expected to dance - if I'm not dancing, I'm not getting it. But I don't like to dance, and I don't want to dance. It makes me want to move, like any other music with lots of rhythm. With this, it seems as if the music doesn't quite click. As if I were trying to listen to Music for Airports while running a bulldozer? Well, not quite.

Tom points out this funny comment gleaned from I'll say that, for the most part, I've at least heard of lots of the bands reviewed on the more popular indie rock review sites. I haven't heard them, but I've heard of them.

to May 2000
josh blog

you've been usin' up your lucky days two at a time

old blog
jazz review project

mail josh

music links

freaky trigger
i hate music
steal this blog!
catherine's pita
my science project

non-music links

blue lines
pearls that are his eyes

current songs

Sleater-Kinney / "Milkshake n' Honey," Yo La Tengo / "Be Thankful for What You've Got", Macha / "Until Your Temples Are Pounding," Mogwai / "R U Still in 2 It," Macha and Bedhead / "Believe," Cat Power / "(Can't Get No) Satisfaction," Mr. Bungle / "Pink Cigarette"

current discs

The Dismemberment Plan / Emergency & I, Mr. Bungle / Disco Volante, Modest Mouse / The Moon & Antarctica, Talking Heads / Popular Favorites, Sleater-Kinney / All Hands on the Bad One, Mr. Bungle / California, Charles Mingus / Mingus Dynasty