Current Month

September 30, 2000

9:28 PM
At a slightly unorthodox quizbowl tournament this weekend I played on a round of all 80s music, where the goal was to name tunes while they were played (openings, generally), with artists for additional points. As you could guess from my tastes, I really sucked it up. So, bad.

But, good: I nailed "911 is a Joke" right away, and I'm very proud of that. :)

Also, was confused but pleased to find the "forthcoming" Sea and Cake album already for sale in Iowa City, for some unknown reason. But, what need have I for reasons? None, when I have a new Sea and Cake album three days earlier than planned.

8:29 PM
Teo Macero in the Guardian.

September 29, 2000

1:59 AM
I almost forgot! Packaging is important: in my attempts over the past couple weeks to describe The Sea and Cake's sound, I neglected to mention that Nassau, The Biz, and The Fawn all have on-CD art done all in pastels. This seems to reflect meaningfully on the music.

Though the liner notes art for the first three albums is just ugly. The Fawn art works, though, as does that for Oui. Suitably blurry and impressionistic-looking.

September 28, 2000

11:33 PM
Don't make no sense: reviewer criticizes the Blue Note Bud Powell box set for being too bulky, and thus tiring during long listening sessions. IT'S A BOX SET - don't listen all at once if you don't want to! Some people...

10:23 PM
Josh doesn't listen to lyrics, volume XIV:

Tonight while I was pissing away two hours of my life riding the bus to the mall to buy clothes (a bad thing, for me), in a moment of clarity I understood the lyrics (at least, the beginning of the song) to a Yo La Tengo song from Electro-pur-a:

"Paul is Dead"

Walking on 10th Street
The guy in front of me, Walkman, headphones on, Stones cranked
The thing that caught my ear, singing loud and clear
Well every couple of steps I heard "Woo-woo"
And he said it so un-self-consciously
That never it would occur to me that
He revealed himself
and I'd offer a blue

I was drunk the night we met, I might try to forget
Except I know so were you
I don't really care, cause we went on from there
And I try not to hide from what is true
The other night I had this dream
You told me what you want from me
I gave it to you instantly
and I woke up without a clue

You would not believe how much more meaningful the song sounds - the "woo-woo" backing vocals that continue through - once the connection between the Stones song (uh, "Sympathy for the Devil," I suppose, but I'm not going to go hunting for the song just to be sure) and the lyrics is made.

Still trying to figure out what this business with "offer a blue" is all about, though. Maybe the website I stole these lyrics from transcribed them wrong.

Also, was never sure what the song had to do with the Beatles. Probably very little aside from the name.

10:14 PM
As Brent S. Sirota notes in his Pitchfork review of
Oui, the new Sea and Cake album due on October 3rd, the album will be released on the same day as the new Radiohead. What does it say about Radiohead (or TSAC?) that though I've had much more profound listening experiences with their records, I intend to listen to Oui first next Tuesday morning? Even though I've already heard half the SAC album, and am very interested to hear the new Radiohead (even having not bothered downloading it from the net)? Nothing, perhaps. But I find it interesting...

Incidentally, Brent S.'s review reads a million times better, to me, than Brent D.'s overblown Kid A review.

September 27, 2000

11:54 PM
Tom and Fred may find this

8:20 PM
Perhaps I've linked to this Dave Holland interview before, but even if so it's more enlightening now.

2:24 AM
Many great things in Lewis Porter's John Coltrane: His Life and Music, but here's just a little one:

Released in 1966, this [Meditations] was the last new album issued while Coltrane was living. As before with Coltrane's controversial music, Down Beat assigned two reviewers for the December 1, 1966 issue: one gave it five stars, the other only one.

12:58 AM
I'm not sure what I can say about this but it sounds terribly wrong.

12:43 AM
Vijay Iyer is an acclaimed and respected "jazz" musician of South Indian extraction. He is also an academic in the musical world, which is less common (those types of musicians usually being mostly irrelevant). But there's more! He's also got a doctorate in physics from MIT, which interests me all the more. See in particular his second Ph. D. thesis, the music one, where he appears to offer a probing analysis of rhythm in music, and uses his analysis to argue, as far as I can tell at this point, that people - and bodies - matter in music. This probably sounds like pointless overanalysis to any pop fans who read this page, but there are definitely still people out there, especially in the academic music community, who regard the action of the mind as the best possible byproduct of listening to music, and classical music as the best possible means of iliciting that action while listening to music. Also, be sure to check out the list of example recordings: Monk, Bird, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Squarepusher... Iyer knows where it's at, that's for sure. Definitely on my read-soon list.

12:20 AM
PSF article on Trout Mask Replica.

12:17 AM
Question for UK readers: is "hooveling" some kind of Britishism? You know where to reach me. (The word is, incidentally, the name of the last track on Holland's Emerald Tears. He's British, and other than that I'm not sure if it's a made-up word, or not.)

12:15 AM
Wondering about the "afro-pop" aspects of TSAC mentioned in many places, I go looking for "afro-pop" - and what do you know, find A nice comparative study would be nice, though.

September 26, 2000

11:21 PM
Hearing Dave Holland's 1978 album of solo bass (double bass, to be specific) playing has provided me with interesting listening experiences in and of themselves so far, but I've also had interesting experiences because of what else I've been listening to.

In his autobiography, Miles Davis talks some, especially early on in relation to his time at Minton's (arguably the birthplace of bop) and the development of his idiosyncratic style, about "hearing things differently". As he put it, he could follow what Bird and Diz and the rest were doing, but as he heard things differently, internally (lower, for sure), that came out in his playing. This isn't all that new a concept, to me or in general. Even in high school we trombone players were known for being able to hear low notes better, trumpet players high notes, and so on.

So, recently besides the Dave Holland I've also been consuming all four Sea and Cake albums: s/t, Nassau, The Biz, and The Fawn, in preparation for the forthcoming Oui. Until recently the only one I'd heard was The Fawn. I can think of a million other times and places - sensations really, memories of ways I've felt in specific situations - which it would also be apt to relate to this music, but the one that seems to come up most often in the reviews I've read is "Sunday afternoon." Arguably my life is either (a) now one big Sunday afternoon, or (b) too busy for such lazy trifles, but still it sounds about right to me. The Fawn drifts and sways, ebbs and flows, and though it's got a very perceptible (with the ears and body) bass part, it's always very gentle-sounding. I think I once wrote a favorite phrase of mine in a letter to a friend: "dust motes suspended in sunlight on a Sunday morning" - and I think it at least hints at this music. (For comparison, though they both have similar tones, I have much less cognitive dissonance thinking of the American Analog Set's The Golden Band as "nighttime music," though it serves about as well in the morning as The Fawn. There's just something about it...)

So, it's odd: despite the bass, which so far I think is deepest and most solid on The Fawn, TSAC's music is mostly "high". Sam Prekop sings high, John McEntire's drum parts lack the kick-drum boom of Tony Williams or the brutal pound of Cop Shoot Cop, and Archer Prewitt's guitar parts are generall on the top half of the fretboard (at least, I think - I'm probably totally wrong, but that's what happens when you first hear music). So though I can hear what's going on, in a sense, I can't - it's not in my hearing range, which I'm not sure whether or not it's related to my singing range. (But what does this mean? I can hear other high things beautifully. And I'm not talking about being unable to detect the sounds; it's more of an aesthetic thing. They stick less well in my head, maybe. But there are other things with part at least as objectively high, that do stick. Hmm?)

This relates to Dave Holland how? Even in the context of jazz songs, bass solos are generally regarded as boring, to put it kindly. It's easy to see why. In many the drums and piano drop out, leaving the bassist with freer time, and free time bothers many people. Also, as the bassist is usually the one providing the harmonic underpinning in bop, once he (she also, whatever) becomes the melody voice, there are typically no other parts implying the harmony beneath him. This makes it (here it comes again) "harder to hear" what's going on, where the action is. I think it's also quite important that the bass is a very low instrument, outside many peoples' "hearing range." That means it's hard to pick out melodic lines, implied harmonic change, etc., from a bass solo not just because it's really solo, but because it all just blends together as "low".

The thing is, so far I've felt I've "heard" the Holland more, despite fewer listens. At times his playing is more free than others, but that doesn't seem to me to be the issue: even the non-free playing is a little tough to follow. On the other hand, the Sea and Cake stuff seems more conventional (they are, however, quietly experimental, as well as incorporating quite a few influences that I'm not as familiar with, so...), so it seems as if it should be easy to follow. Pop songs - easy, right? Well, maybe not.

And about this "drift" business - I wouldn't say I'm "trying" hard at all, but perhaps something about TSAC's drifty, ambiguous music is that it's not really supposed to be grasped like this. This too makes some sense to me; it took me a while to warm up to The Fawn, but it was a very gradual thing, and even now I have very pleasant experiences when listening to it, but it's a very different thing from say "grasping" a Dismemberment Plan CD.

9:26 PM
Why even bother printing this many different
shows, is what I want to know. Link stolen from pearls.

12:32 AM
Whaddaya know - it turns out is the work of an ISU alumnus - thought I recognized him from somewhere. Small world!

September 25, 2000

8:04 PM
Not sure if I wasn't paying attention, or what, but Kool Keith dropped another album,
Matthew, this past summer. I thought it was odd that I didn't see any talk about it.

Incidentally, I'm liking Dr. Octagonecologyst much better than Black Elvis/Lost in Space.

3:05 AM
Three Pandering Sluts and Their Music-Press Stooge aka a 1993 Chicago newspaper letter-war set off by Steve Albini's response to an article praising the Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, and Urge Overkill.

September 24, 2000

11:30 PM
Article on / interview with
Nurse with Wound that discusses, among other things, the collector mentality and how the obscurity of some of NWW's influences has made them possible, in a sense.

11:13 PM
Article at Resonance magazine about Tortoise circa TNT release. Nothing new, just a pleasant look back.

6:11 PM
The Sea and Cake sure know how to win me over: the inside art to their first, self-titled album as a painting of Charles Mingus inside.

4:26 PM
I finally gave in and replaced my copy of The Best of the Doors today; the old one had something wrong with it that's prevented me from listening to it for almost 2 years now. If I've ever heard it on my good headphones before, then I don't remember it, because there have already been some surprises: the demented whispering on one track, or the enormous synth on "Waiting for the Sun" that makes it even more psychedelic than I remember. Oh, oops - plus I also have it turned up to 9 because I was listening to Godspeed right before this... heh.

Waiting eagerly to be back home so I can play "Riders on the Storm" at home; the sound of the tinkling Rhodes piano backgrounds is marvelous.

Happily, this is all even better than I remember.

4:26 PM
George reviews the forthcoming Godspeed release at Splendid.

1:39 AM
Note to self: new King Crimson Red-era remasters pushed back to later in October.

Other note to self: Labradford.

1:28 AM
Brief notes:

Heard The Sea and Cake's forthcoming (on October 3, same day as the new Radiohead, not that anyone would notice) album Oui tonight, or at least a good portion of it. I generally enjoy the one TSAC album I own, The Fawn, more each time I listen, but it's been slow going - I like it and all, but it's so unassuming that it's easy to move on to something else instead of focusing on it for any length of time. Also, at times I get the impression that the electronic tendencies were barely overplayed. Hearing Oui helped me make more sense out of this; it seems they do have a definitely less-synthy/drum-machiny side, and it's wonderful. This has led me to seek out their older LPs, which are by all accounts nifty.

Also, wanted to mention again how the more I listen to Amon Tobin's Permutation and Photek's Modus Operandi, the more surprising and engaging they become, as the myriad subtleties become more apparent. The best parallel I can think of is that of warming up to jazz - even after you enjoy jazz, you can still become much better at picking up on the subtle rhythmic interplay, etc., that goes into it. (Thinking here too that some music is just generally more subtle than other music.)

Which reminds me, especially on the new TSAC tracks I heard tonight, McEntire's drumming is amazing. Superhuman. Up there with say the most planned-out Photek track, but done live and by a guy with (I assume) just two arms. Amazing not only in a technical sense, though (that's so rock fan of me, right?) - amazing because his insanely timed beats and fills fit in perfectly, despite obviously being derived from drum n bass.

September 22, 2000

11:25 PM
Slight correction: the
essay I linked to below (3:23 AM) had the wrong link.

9:08 PM
Avant-skronk guitarist Henry Kaiser's website has a very cool feature, a bunch of recommendations where HK picks favorites. The result is perhaps more interesting than say a page of Damon Albarn picks, or something, because HK's music is generally thought to be more difficult, and thus it's nice to have some more clues about where his head is.

3:27 AM
And along those lines, check out this academic article about the Five Percent Nation of Islam in rap music.

3:23 AM
Hmmm, maybe there is something to that overview below; but I think it jumbles the issues. See this essay about the ambiguous relationship between the Planets' second album, Blowout Comb, and the leftist politics they reference.

3:10 AM
Interview with the Planets' Doodlebug.

3:01 AM
I'm not quite sure of the purpose of this overview of Reachin' - its main argument (and it is making an argument) seems to be that the album is anti-white, pro-drug, pro-violence, etc. etc. That is, it tries to argue that the album is not very different from its contemporary gangsta rap. I think. Why one would want to do this, I'm not sure, because it also seems to be completely off-base. Still listening to the lyrics, but as far as I can tell they're uniformly positive, and violence is never advocated.

2:59 AM
The Planets like Herbie Hancock... "Escapism (Gettin' Free)" also samples from Hancock, again uncredited - the main bass sample is from is from the Headhunters version of "Watermelon Man", and the beginning has samples "African" funk-whistle section from that song.

September 21, 2000

10:40 PM
There's an impressive new paean to Game Theory's Lolita Nation up on the front page at
Dancing About Architecture.

8:46 PM
Digable Planets' Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) opens with an uncredited sample from Herbie Hancock's Sextant. The message: these insects, like Herbie's Mwandishi trilogy, are from another world.

1:16 PM
Jon has more to say:

Koko Taylor sings it as "Wang Dang Doodle".

That's all I'm saying.

10:48 AM
Observation about the final Morphine album, The Night:

The sound is subdued, compressed. Sandman plays more low, slowly thumping notes and fewer swaggering slides - in fact, there are fewer riffs all around. Dana Colley seems relegated to a minor role, compared to past albums. But he fills his role, when he appears, tastefully, often showing appreciable restraint (for example, in the title track).

The tension here seems to be due to a few things. Morphine's best songs have always walked a line between noirish, slinky "low rock" that used those qualities to hint at something seductive, possibly even seedy; and graceful, simple sketches. (When I say "sketches," I do it cautiously: there's something of the imagist poets' "image" as a complex of experience here, and something of the "haiku moment" to be found in good haiku, where an image simply presented and allowed to resonate with the viewer - in this case, listener.)

The best songs on this album seem to me to be the ones where they present those sketches. On the whole album, the sound seems to get at, or at least try to sometimes, contrary to what the songs call for, the same kind of emotional state that past great Morphine songs have, only, taken down a notch - more subdued, more resigned, more numb. But some songs are still songs in the tales-of-modern-urban-noir mold, and I can almost hear them straining against this new sound.

(And about the sound: many critics have described it as expanded, etc. etc. because of the cellos, other extra instruments, but their roles are minor; in fact the sound sounds smaller everywhere, and everyone plays less, except that Sandman's bass sounds lower than ever.)

I'm still undecided on the lyrics, but again, the "sketch" songs seem to work better. Though there are troubling lyrics here and there - "surrounded by the sounds of saxophones," "666th time," talk of no thirteenth floor, etc. I'm not sure if these really are banal, or if I'm just noticing them extra because of, well, I don't know.

And: the title track "The Night" is one of the most beautiful, haunting songs they've done.

September 20, 2000

8:15 PM
Jon has thoughtfully submitted a correction to today's earlier entry (see below), offering instead "wang dang doodle." However, I'm sorry to inform Jon that Howlin' Wolf does indeed say "wang" twice. For what that's worth. Because I'm such a benevolent blogger, though, I leave the choice to you, the reader: wang wang doodle, or wang dang doodle?

1:43 AM
wang wang doodle all night long

September 19, 2000

1:09 AM
link stolen from Tim - jungle fans discuss the state of the music.

September 18, 2000

9:50 AM
Keith Jarrett
talks in a radio interview about his CSS illness, among other things.

September 17, 2000

11:51 PM
So I've finally gone and listened to the new Outkast track everyone's talking about, "Bombs Over Baghdad" from the forthcoming Stankonia. And what everyone's saying about its relationship to early-90s hardcore (as in, techno) makes a lot more sense to me than the Public Enemy comparisons. Yes, there are quite a few layers of sound, and it's high-energy, and there are rappers, but it sounds to me as if it's crossed some line from being just a rap track, to a (and I mean this in the nicest way possible, I do like it) dance track. Perhaps mostly because it's so fast.

I wonder if the fast rap (not just the tempo in general) helps associate it even more with dance. I'm certainly not the world's greatest expert, but it seems like many of the bigger rap hits (like, the ones that made it to the midwest during my youth) that featured really fast rap were tied to reggae or dancehall or something similar. But, you know - I don't know what I'm talking about.

Given that there are a few mentions of dance culture on the previous album, Aquemeni, I don't think this is all that unexpected. Even then it seems Outkast were already in touch with dance culture, whatever exactly it's like in Atlanta. There are also at least a few spots where they drop some drum-n-bass beats - even on the long soul ballad/lament, "Liberation," which surprised me the first time I heard them.

Now that I've heard this and Aquemeni I have no idea what the new album will sound like.

the beat was very dirty
and the vocals had dis-tor

- Outkast, "Da Art of Storytelling (Part 2)"

7:04 PM
article about hip-hop's place at the top of pop music, about its "ownership", and plenty of other things. The author himself veers toward some of the academic-speak he talks about (cf. rap albums, from his list, as "texts"), but for the most part it's interesting.

5:36 PM
On Morphine - what happened? It seems to me that there's been an enormous dearth of Morphine-influenced bands. Admittedly, this might not be a bad thing - look at what happens in the wake of most "influential" bands: fusion (mostly early electric Miles), trip-hop (Massive Attack and Portishead), grunge (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden)... most of the followers turn out to be at best interesting though ultimately lacking shadows of their influences, and at worst, crap (cf. most of non-nu-metal modern rock radio). So if it's Morphine-influenced bands I want, it's not for the "new" music I would get to hear. I have more selfish reasons than that.

Once bands are thought to have influenced others, they seem to pick up more critical cachet as a result. I don't necessarily think that's right, but hey, sometimes cachet is cachet. I think Morphine's sound has mostly remained their own because they tread a fine line between being gimmicky, and idiosyncratic. Personally I think they fall on the latter side of the line, but I can see how easy it would be to see them as gimmicky. No more or less so than any other style of rock music, though - it's just that some are more widely adopted than others, and thus seem less limited.

So maybe Morphine were too idiosyncratic. I think it's fair to say that progenitors of some of the styles mentioned above were also "too" idiosyncratic, enough so that simply borrowing or adopting their styles proved to be easier said than done (otherwise, the results would have been better). But in Morphine's case, maybe their sound seems so specific to most people (musicians here I mean), that it seems pointless to even try.

All this aside, some album thoughts: on their first, Good, first drummer Jerome Dupree's time is much more metronomic than later (and then only, though Dupree guested on all of final album The Night) drummer Billy Conway's. Conway seems to let the sax, bass, and vocal lines push the music, while he adds rhythmic commentary.

Yes is their "rock" album, relatively speaking. And Dana Colley relies a lot on his double-sax trick to bulk up the sound, make it seem more frantic.

The bass harmonica on "I Know You (Part I)" from Good is great - I wonder why I've not heard this instrument more elsewhere.

Unless it's done on the fly with some kind of processor, Sandman uses vocal overdubs sometimes. So it's unclear whether they use them for other parts as well. In particular, do they use them in their more psychedelic moments? My guess is no, which makes the amount of sound, and kind of sound, they're able to get out of their limited instrumentation all the more impressive. Sure, a guitar-drums-bass rock trio can be plenty psychedelic, but it's generally guitar psychedelia - has a different feel to it than this, where the bass (typically played with a slide) has more presence and the sax (baritone) already has an easily-obtainable, distinctive growl, before Colley takes advantage of overtones, skronks, wah-wah pedals (!) and the like.

2:42 PM
A couple - 1 2 - of ATN pieces about Morphine.

2:16 AM
Also: the version of Snoop's "Murder Was the Case" from the movie soundtrack is miles better than the album version (can't remember if it's on Doggystyle or The Chronic, but big difference). Super-ominous, more psychedelic - and the g-funk synths are completely out of tune, it's like something out of avant-garde classical.

1:51 AM
Note to self: played the "Liberation" single from Outkast's Aquemeni tonight, liked it a lot.

Gang Starr's "Words I Manifest (remix)" from the Full Clip anthology also nice, but less so. Actually prefer Guru's Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 more - have been listening to it last few days and it subtleties are growing on me. Still think the jazz parts feel tacked on most of the time - liner notes say Guru wrote lyrics while the jazz musicians were laying down their parts, so presumably all they had to work with were beats and minimal basslines. Also explains the soul-jazz feel - no attempt to create more complicated (i.e. more comfortable to jazz) harmonic structures.

On the other hand, also listening to Tribe's Low End Theory a lot lately. Ron Carter's guest spot is even better when really really loud - and shows what can be done in working toward a better jazz/rap fusion. Structure is still simple, but Carter uses it more effectively - embellishes the main bassline, seems to be playing off Tip and Fife. I love the rest of the songs plenty but I still wish they could've done more like this - maybe pull Carter in for an entire album.

September 16, 2000

5:03 PM
Q: Are We Not Men?
A: We Are Devo!

That's right, today with the miserable $30 that remained of the rent deposit from my last apartment, I bought Rhino's Pioneers Who Got Scalped Devo best-of.

1:43 PM
What? Since when were
Kraftwerk records not taken seriously, like this guy says? Has he not been around the past 10 years?

September 15, 2000

8:28 PM
Courtney Love is filing suit against Universal in order to get her share of their settlement with, which Universal argued that they were pursuing for their artists. They'll probably find a way to not pay her, but just think... if they do, they'll have to pay everyone else! How do you suppose they'll decide who gets how much?

12:38 AM
Another link from DJ Martian: news of an upcoming ("late September") release from Recommended Records (Chris Cutler's "megacorp", home to Henry Cow and other fine avant-skronk products) of... a Faust boxed set including their early albums and some other junk. I only have IV (their fourth album would you believe it) but definitely need more. The word is that IV, while it's charming in its own little way, has nothing on the seas of sound to be found on e.g. the first album.

September 14, 2000

1:21 AM
Yields link stolen from DJ Martian. Experimental music links links links.

September 13, 2000

1:51 AM
Because I, uh, tend to pick up music quickly sometimes, it takes me a while to get back to some things, even ones I liked a bunch at first. So after being reminded how much I loved a newer record (newer to me, at least) tonight, I thought I'd do something kind of like
slashdot's "slashback" stories, where they revisit old posts and give updates, the idea being that these updates are small and tend to slip through the cracks otherwise. In my case, the idea is that this will help me (and you, dear reader, should you wish it) keep a broader perspective on what exactly I've been doing.

With that in mind... here's a quick rundown of things, new to me this year (i.e. new and old releases), that I really enjoyed. I wholeheartedly recommend that you try any of these out, though a little discretion might be in order if you're unfamiliar with the broader genres they occupy.

In particular, I recommend any of these to Jon, who I haven't recommended anything to in a while.

I will see about commenting further on these in the near future.

Autechre, Incunabula
John Coltrane, Stellar Regions
Herbie Hancock, Mwandishi
Uri Caine Ensemble, Mahler in Toblach
Thelonious Monk, Straight No Chaser
Einsturzende Neubauten, Silence is Sexy
Miles Davis, Filles de Kilimanjaro
Stuart Dempster, Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel
Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One
Mr. Bungle, California
John Zorn, The Circle Maker
Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet
Sonic Youth, A Thousand Leaves

This goes back to some nebulous time in the mid spring.

I enjoyed other things, some very much so, but looking back at the moment these are the ones that stick out most.

12:01 AM
Is it sales losses due to people happy to subsist on freely procured copies that they're concerned about? Or is it the huge loss they could take on early-hype sales, when people find out beforehand that they don't really want an album after all?

September 12, 2000

9:43 PM
One DJ Martian has plugged his
Diverse Music Positive Weblog to me, so go check it out and see what you think.

I have something to say about Martian's rant/campaign concerning xfm, but no time now. Must write proofs.

8:13 PM
Something I am thinking about, will discuss later: is the insane genre-hopping and -mixing and -juxtaposing in Mr. Bungle ironic? Or how much so, or not? My suspicion is that largely, no, it's not ironic. Maybe some of it, but for the most part everything they appropriate seems to be used just because they thought it was so fucking cool and, well, why not use 10 different genres in a song and have the singer switch from crooning to something like a Balinese Monkey Chant?

Maybe Fred, Tom, Otis, Mike, or any other readers of this page who like the Magnetic Fields could think about this in relation to them. Because from what I've heard/read, a lot of the genre-hopping on 69 Love Songs is sort of needless and (here comes a favorite word of Tom's and Mike's) artificial. Not even in the "they're not REALLY playing REAL jazz/punk/country/etc/" sense - more like "they don't even care, they just wanted to reference this particular style/genre." I'm curious what the aesthetic effect of this is supposed to be, especially on something a big as 69LS. It is just supposed to reinforce the sense of sprawl?

8:05 PM
Analysis of Gnutella network scalability not for the non-scientifically-inclined music fans who usually read this page, but it has some interesting things to say about the feasibility of Gnutella's form of peer-to-peer file sharing, without centralized servers, expanding significantly. Which in turn has significance for the possibility of peer-to-peer sharing networks replacing things like Napster - which would be a plus because there are no corporations to prosecute and put the SMACK down on.

The short of it: too many modem users makes growing Gnutella networks too slow to be very cool. Not because of the downloading per se, just the intra-network connections. I.e. sort of a basic component of a Gnutella network.

get me out of this air-conditioned nightmare
you will hate life more than life hates you
from a skyscraper
down to the submarines
where's my rainbow?
where's my halo?
there's my halo.

Sounds like RADIOHEAD lyrics, right? Well they're NOT. They're Mr. Bungle lyrics! Rendered completely non-Radiohead-esque, I think, by the insane surf music cutting to doo-wop vocals. And, uh, all the other stuff. In that one song. I love Mr. Bungle.

September 11, 2000

10:17 PM
Opinion piece at
Motley Fool about the balance (or imbalance) between consumer and legal input to the economy.

September 10, 2000

2:19 PM
Ah, the Flaming Lips. I love you, Flaming Lips.

"Evil will Prevail".

Sometimes it's misused, this word "prevail." Football teams don't prevail. Neither do politicians. Maybe armies prevail, but probably not. Good prevails, and evil prevails, and their forces do. So if you ain't fightin' for good or evil, you ain't gonna prevail. (You might win though.)

12:33 AM
Grim news for the Napster case: the current administration, in form of the Department of Justice, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the Copyright Office, has submitted / signed off on an amicus curae brief claiming that the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 can't be relief on in Napster's defense.

September 9, 2000

7:04 PM
Publishing royalties primer.

5:19 PM
Tom "interviews" Jessica Simpson in an article about pop music at Freaky Trigger.

1:41 AM
Sly Stone samples.

12:36 AM
And before someone corrects me: "Family Affair" actually hit number 1 on the R+B and pop charts. Very surprising, then.

12:01 AM
Another copyright violation case goes to The Man. (Follow the link to the cnet story - I'm too lazy to fix my screen so I can see the whole damn thing right now.)

Note especially the end. I don't see why it matters that the new software had to circumvent Real's copy-protection scheme - what that means is just that Real wanted security through technical means. The material would still be copyrighted if it wasn't protected algorithmically. So why is the case not, as implied by the defendants, directly analagous to the Betamax decision, where TV producers (among others) were concerned about the ability VCRs brought to record TV programs which were previously completely (technologically, note) under control of the broadcasters?

September 8, 2000

11:33 PM
Oh, yeah - forgot to mention, on track 9 of the Sly album there's yodeling. Which strikes me as both incredibly dumb and still oddly pleasing.

11:06 PM
Quoth Greg, to me, about not getting my tastes (but that's OK, I don't get his either):

What's so hard to understand about Weezer is that their fans don't generally like Einsturzende Neubaten and John Coltrane.

10:45 PM
Received a nice surprise in my mailbox today, a copy of Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, from my
wishlist. And more importantly, from Fred - thank you. I hope you enjoy the Salinger as much as I do this. Well, at least as much. :)

Not even one listen through yet I am enjoying myself, and I can definitely see why this was not nearly as popular as Sly's other albums. Which makes me wonder how it became one of Fred's favorites. ;) Even "Family Affair", the biggest single from it (and it didn't do as well as Sly's earlier singles), is surprising in its blatant unpopularity - it sounds as if it's just a little segment of funk, few concessions to pop song structure etc.

I first became interested in getting this record because I came across a bunch of reviews, which either I'd never seen previously or never caught on to before, and which claimed Tricky's Maxinquaye to be something of a direct descendant of Riot. That interested me because the connection was supposed to be in the claustrophobic, dark sound, and I really wanted to hear how that would sound with funk rather than hip-hop and ol Mr. Thaws (whose voice and "personality" certainly help make, for me, anything of his that I like).

So am I satisfied, in this respect? Sort of - I think so, will know better after more listening. I think that in part, this could stand to be remastered and issued anew on CD - the pressing appears to be old enough that there would probably be a sound quality difference. But a lot of it is obviously the sound: the bass is up in the mix, and basically everything else is buried. Usually when people say "buried in the mix" it's sort of a bad thing, but not here, I think. It just contributes to the mood, and the dominance of the FUNK. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Tom didn't care for this, since it's dirty and gritty (compare to his preferred mode of funk, the MAN-MACHINE variety). But above when I joked about Fred and Riot's unpopularity, I really meant that typically something of this sort - thick, defiantly uncommercial, songless stuff - is what Fred claims to be the kind of dreck that only I like. :)

10:43 PM
Gareth of Surface vs. Depth offers some thoughts on techno in his log. No comment at the moment but thanks, Gareth, and you, dear reader, should see what he has to say.

2:00 AM
Currently feeling out Underworld's dubnobasswithmyheadman. Things are proceeding slowly, but not suspiciously, which I regard as about as good as I could do without actually liking the damn thing right off. More to follow in the future, maybe.

Also, I have nothing to say about the reviews proper in this week's TWAS (except to say that I bought Misplaced Childhood once and fuck, did I not like it) - however, if there's one way to get me to at least read the beginning of your record review, it's to start it with a discussion of anything in relation to epistemology, ontology, and teleology. Kickass.

Finally: I really entered this at 1:59 but I wrote "2:00" to make it go nicely with the times below, which were "real" entry times. Apparently this was very aesthetically important to me because I normally would balk at the idea of typing the wrong time when I could just as easily type the right one. Just thought you should know. ;)

September 7, 2000

2:30 AM
Review of the new
Aaliyah on motion is on the surface an unusual thing to cover for them, given their usual fare. But if you're a Freaky Trigger head then all this Timbaland-is-the-shit talk will be nothing new.

2:15 AM
The Library of Congress was requried by the DMCA (upon its passage) to conduct three studies - the page doesn't get specific, but presumably, into the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of digital copyright. Intellectual property buffs might be interested in the new replies, including many from the big copyright holding companies' laywers. The ones I've read seem to touch on the DeCSS case (involving the legality of passing around - or even linking to!! - software which will decrypt the encryption used to forced consumers to only play DVDs on licensed players (and thus, not be able to copy them on their non-licensed DVD-ROM drives)), but the issues are immediately germane to the free music debate (things like point of first sale, etc.).

2:00 AM
Beware if you buy DVDs from I hope they don't do this with books or CDs, though I've never noticed it. What the hell kind of "test" is that supposed to be, anyway?

September 6, 2000

10:09 AM
slashdot posting suggests that the world's third-largest media company is behind plans in Germany to place a royalty tax on all computer equipment that could be used to copy copyrighted materials - CD burners and the like, but also hard drives (?). As one of the discussion posters notes: how do they decide who to give the money to? Oh, right - the artists see almost none of that. US music companies have wanted a tax like this for years but at the moment can only tax the appropriate audio-specific hardware.

2:20 AM
I listened to Wilco's Being There again last night, and still my thoughts echo Glenn McDonald's (just at the end of the review) - to wit, why is it a double album? And I don't mean the physical doubleness, the fact that the music is split onto two CDs when one, with a tiny bit of editing, would do. I mean, why is it so long? Because while the second disc seems decent, it just never seems as good to me as the first.

So I decided to do a little research, and see what the band thought. From this interview with Jeff Tweedy I gleaned:

That's OK, they can think that I'm being totally ungrateful first thing on the record. If they don't want a double record they can use one as a coaster or something.

He certainly seems to think it stood to be a double.

So, there are other possibilities: in the same interview Tweedy says

Cool! They're hard to find already, you know. What's a double record if it doesn't come out on vinyl? I sequenced it like vinyl. I wanted every five or six songs to complete a thought, or like a mini set. I think it's easier to listen to. That's why I think double records were easier to listen to in the past than a double CD is today.

This implies that he was definitely thinking about suite-like structure for the album. It's a small step from there to thinking of the discs as being in some sort of relationship with one another - say, the second one commenting on the first one (cf. for example the goofier version of "Outtasite (Outta Mind)", or whichever one it's called, on disc two).

Or it could be, as McDonald suggests, that the second disc is just deliberately more insular, making fewer concessions (if that's the right word - those things on the first disc aren't concessions, they're just plain wonderful pop songs, albeit in some non-pop genres) to pop? If so that seems like a poor choice for a double album, for most listeners. It's just harder to appreciate the second disc as much if you're not drawn to it as frequently, in my opinion. And this from me, who likes to listen to ten-minute sax and drums skronk duets.

I know I've discussed this before. Maybe this time I'll work on it a little more and come up with a Theory.

September 5, 2000

11:27 PM
I'm not sure how meaningful they are, but here are some more musings related to my nemesis, house music:

I've hit upon the idea that maybe something that made that Underworld mix of Massive Attack's "Risingson" (see below for more gory details) more enjoyable for me was how ignorable the omnipresent standard 4/4 house thump was. On the Underworld track it seems sort of obscured, partially by the breathlike (in that they have rhythms similar to long, slow breaths - not in that they are wispy or airy, etc.) synth chords flowing up and down at the base of the song's sonic stage. And also, partially by the higher-level details, various synth noodlings and spacy noises and such.

I got this idea not directly from the Underworld track but from an Autechre track off of LP5 (around track 5 or so, can't remember). Now, I don't find myself hoping to be able to ignore the core beats in Autechre tracks - they're altogether different kinds of beats from the kind of house beats I despise, and I rather enjoy them. In this particular Autechre track there was a very noticeable and very regular beat. But I found myself sort of oblivious to its presence, and focusing very intently on everything else in the track. This isn't to say that the beat had nothing to do with my enjoyment of the track; on the contrary, it probably structured it very extensively (recall a few months back when I talked about how difficult it seemed to sing/play some melodies out of the original rhythm, like "'Round Midnight"). But it didn't override my experience of the other parts of the track. I hate to use phrases like this, but it felt as if it were more part of an integrated whole.

Compare to what little trance I've heard, where I can't find much else to focus on but the beat (in part because of its prominence, in part because of the lack of anything else interesting). This is more extreme than most (e.g.) house mixes, but it makes the point clearer: I like the music better when it all goes together somehow, than when it sounds like someone wanted a beat plus other stuff (you know, whatever was lying around).

Examples welcome of music that I do in fact like which sounds like the kind of thing (the bad one) I'm describing above - it would help me to figure out if I'm actually valuing some other quality that I'm not thinking of at the moment. This is not to say I don't like my chaos, or my illogical juxtapositions. Hmmm.

11:23 PM
A plus to the arrangements on Of Montreal's "songles" album: xylophone (or is it marimba?). I like xylophones.

10:59 PM
Josh at
Fanatic was kind enough to send me a gratis copy of Of Montreal's new "songles" disc (a compilation of off-album tracks and assorted stuff), and I have been unkind enough to sit on the disc for a few weeks. Not out of any malice toward Josh (free stuff rocks) or Of Montreal - actually, just the opposite. Since I'd had a bad (not pleasant, at least) experience with the first Of Montreal I heard, I thought I'd do my usual thing and just wait until I felt the time was right to listen again.

So tonight was the night. And I am proud to say that I came out of the experience with something good, despite really being painfully tempted to stop listening near the beginning of the album. Why? Not sure... but if it helps any, despite this being nominally an Elephant 6 release (remember, the Of Montreal guys don't put much stock in their "membership"), it sounds more to me like Guided By Voices' Alien Lanes than any of the other Elephant 6 stuff I've heard (that being the Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Elf Power). Therein lies the problem - I really can't stand Guided by Voices. Not that I've tried very hard to stand them - I think I've pulled out Alien Lanes 2 or 3 times in the past 5 years. They always seem to cross a line, for me, from being lo-fi as a matter of fact ("well... we're poor, we don't have enough money for fancy equipment... but this sounds just fine" - that sort of thing) to being perversely, needlessly lo-fi, lo-fi as an aesthetic category in and of itself. But anyway. This entry isn't about Guided By Voices - really, it isn't.

So I am slightly put off by Of Montreal because they seem to me to have more affinities with GBV than any Elephant 6 bands, and accordingly, with any sort of Beatlesque or Beach-Boy-esque pop (and I know, GBV have been linked to the Beatles too, but I don't buy it). Their pop elements seem to be just sort of accidental - as in, they could have just as easily been a low-fi punk band or whatever, but they felt like writing pop songs. (On the flip side, someone like OTC sound to me like they felt writing pop songs plus mind-expanding noisescapes, and then used lo-fidelity toward that end.)

That said, the songs I liked best were the ones where I was most taken in by the songs, and thus where I paid the least attention to the production. (It could also be that these songs were less lo-fi - I'll have to investigate futher.) My favorite being "Scenes from my Funeral," where the narrator (and it does have a narrative of sorts) describes, well, scenes from his funeral. I think the end is a bit of a cop-out (corpse jumps up, starts dancing), but how are you supposed to end a song about your own funeral?

Reviews elsewhere make much of the conceptual unity and scope of the group's albums proper, and I still think that would be what would really do it for me. At least, barring my becoming a major fan of pop songs overflowing with sometimes-naive, sometimes-wise childlike wonderment.

One TP Uschanov, who I've been corresponding with recently, called me a "fan" of Pet Sounds, noting when I corrected him that a "fan" is someone enthusiastic about something or other, and that I certainly pursued my experiences with Pet Sounds with some enthusiasm. If that's so then I suppose the same can be said for me and Of Montreal; this is only a preliminary report, and I plan to listen again (as in, repeatedly, not as in, at least one more time) to see what comes of the whole thing.

That's better than can be said for the CD with scary-looking lyrics from Lunar Chateau that I recently received, also gratis, as part of (apparently, from the talk on a widespread campaign to spam r.m.p. readers and unload unsold albums in the hopes of whetting interest in the forthcoming album. I'm, uh, thinking of listening to it someday if I don't have any other CDs I want to listen to more (which should be pretty soon, right?).

9:51 AM
As has been pointed out to me, Placebo played with David Bowie - not just live, but on a limited-edition release of "Without You I'm Nothing." So there's your Placebo -> Bill Bruford link (just follow as for Veruca Salt).

September 4, 2000

10:02 PM
Things I learned from reading Miles Davis' autobiography:

  1. If Miles says he's given up drugs, don't believe him.
  2. Don't ever be Miles' girlfriend.
  3. "Motherfucker" is more versatile than you think.

More seriously, it was a disappointing read, bogged down in poor writing (and I'm not just talking about the black English, apparently gotten from this being a dictated book - I'm talking about organization, Miles' frequent self-contradiction, etc. - did Troupe actually edit, at all?) and sometimes made very unpleasant by Miles' ego. Still, there are a few powerful moments, often those where Miles actually relates an anecdote in dialogue, such as the conversation between him and a woman at the Presidential banquet, or the one between him and a comedian who once insulted him. Sections like these, for brief moments, help explain why Miles was so often angry, and angry in particular at racist whites (however, that doesn't excuse his own often racist statements, despite his infrequent attempts to make it appear as if he only means them to apply to dumb whites, as opposed to cool ones). They are too sparsely distributed throughout the book to hide the worst thing the book has to say, though: that Miles was in many ways an asshole.

Miles' 80s music is pretty much the only stuff I haven't gotten into yet, and I'm not sure if I will or not, instead remaning content to stop at his "retirement" in 1975. It's hard to tell what to make of it from his autobiography, written in the 80s. He seems very enthusiastic about all the bands and albums he describes, but in my reading he never seemed as into the music as he was with his more famous groups (the first or second quintets, the Kind of Blue sextet, the fusion groups).

Stanley Crouch, outspoken jazz critic and critic, in the more negative sense, of much music outside a narrowly prescribed version of "jazz" that should be familiar to anyone who's heard Wynton Marsalis, wrote an essay called "On the Corner: The Selling Out of Miles Davis," which I commented on a tiny bit a few months back. The essay had two main points to it. One was an overview of his music, which praised some of it but found fault with the fusion work, and which tried to link that fault to Miles' "decline" over the years (through e.g. straying from African roots on Birth of the Cool to moving to Columbia, a more commercial record label). This part has its own problems, most prominent being that it's clear Crouch is assessing Miles' music based on his needlessly strict criteria for What Jazz Is, and not actually listening to the music fairly. The second part constitues a critique of Miles' autobiography, and the man it reveals. I have fewer problems with this part of the essay, because it's pretty clear that Miles was not a nice man, not at all. And it's been agreed in other fora that Miles and/or Troupe may have actually plagiarized parts of Jack Chambers' Milestones, as Crouch alleges. However, it seems like Crouch is attempting to make a leap from Miles the asshole to Miles the bad musician, just by juxtaposing these two disjoint critiques. It makes me think even Crouch is aware of how weak his musical criticism of Davis is, that he knows he's just blowing hot air.

8:40 PM
Just as the title track to Coltrane's Stellar Regions died away, the traffic outside my window dissipated, and -



7:37 PM
On they once - the interest died off - liked to play a game called "prog links," essentially the six degrees of Baconization game with drummer Bill Bruford instead of Kevin Bacon. Plus no one seems to mind much about the six degrees part.

Anyway, Henry Potts asked for links from (separately) Bill to Veruca Salt and Placebo.

Veruca Salt ->
Bob Rock (produced Eight Arms to Hold You) ->
The Cult (Sonic Temple produced by Bob Rock) ->
Iggy Pop (background vocals on The Cult's Sonic Temple) ->
David Bowie (Pop appears on Bowie's Low) ->
Brian Eno (so does Eno) ->
Robert Fripp (Fripp + Eno) ->
Bill Bruford (King Crimson)

The Placebo I had a little trouble with. Any ideas?

4:23 PM
pearls comes a link to a promising-looking site, Sample This - dedicated to sample-based music and, more generally, issues surrounding it (such as the legality of sampling, or the free music debate).

Though apparently many pitas pages contain some odd HTML, as Sample This is yet another that I can't view with my browser. Oh well.

4:00 PM
Perfect Sound Forever interview with Richard Meltzer. Philosophy content!

Also at PSF, A Reasonable Guide to Rock Critics - can you spot our buddies Greil, Lester, and Simon? Sure you can.

And again at PSF: Steve Reich talks about early tape pieces. And mentions being influenced by William Carlos Williams!

3:47 PM
Interview with John Fraim, author of Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane.

More interesting for his comments on the book, than for the standard answers he gives to the uninspired interview questions.

3:43 PM
Cleansing the Mirror: on understanding Coltrane's legacy

12:40 PM
"On a side note: They had to quit selling ICP tickets online because of so much confusion by people thinking they were indeed buying tickets to see the Insane Clown Posse."

- quote from a zorn-list poster about the cancelled Instant Composers Pool Orchestra show at the new LA Knitting Factory location

2:06 AM
An article on Harry Smitth's Anthology of American Folk Music.

1:54 AM
American Folklife

I find it oh so incredibly helpful how every page on the LOC's web server is awash with bureaucratic information about the particular sponsoring agencies, mission statements, fair use restrictions, and statements about what is and isn't available (before actually letting you at the content).

1:43 AM
A collection of William Gottlieb's photos (and some related articles) of the "golden age" of jazz, part of the Library of Congress' "American Memory" project (no, not an American counterpart to Mass-Observation, but I'm still looking).

1:22 AM
Frith talks some in chapter 3 about Mass-Observation, a research organization founded in the 1930s with the goal of recording British daily life. And what do you know, it's got a website and since 1980 has been collecting new information. I think this is a great idea and hope to find an American counterpart.

September 3, 2000

11:49 PM
I've begun Simon Frith's excellent Performing Rites, and an offhand comment at the end of chapter 2 caught my eye.

The sociological point, to conclude, is that we're dealing here with different sorts of music, whether jazz or rap, folk or rock, which are all, in one way or another, handling the issues thrown up by their commodification. (If we wanted to look at musics with really different sociological bases, we'd need to examine those with quite other functions than market exchange - religious music, for example, or military music, which cannot be discussed in art/folk/pop terms.)

This concerns me: I hadn't gathered from the preceding material that Frith was grouping all the musics discussed according to their commodification, to the exclusion of other musics. This wouldn't concern me much if I had an easier time making the distinction - that is, thinking of music that wasn't commodified in some way. For example, a lot of religious music is either (a) also entrenched in the art music tradition, cf. Bach's cantatas or the St. Matthew Passion, or (b) contemporary "praise" music somehow remotely related to gospel (or indeed, gospel itself, which has plenty of commodified aspects). I'm not sure where to place hymns.

But these, along with military music (uh - marches?), are perhaps giving me trouble because of my culture. I'm fully aware that in some cultures, there is music which serves basically only ceremonial purposes; in our culture it seems it's all commodified in one way or another.

8:30 PM
Russian Independent Music

Not sure if it's a translation problem, or the page author's personal preference, or if Russian indie music is just funny all the time. Surely there are lovelorn Russian indie kids?

7:28 PM
Hmmm, how about that - Tim just linked to The Manual the other day, only a different version than I did. So no, I wasn't remiss in attributing my link source, but you should visit sink anyway.

7:09 PM
There are 3 (yes that's three) AC/DC covers on Mark Kozelek's "first" solo album (the last Red House Painters album being an arguably better candidate for the first real solo album from him). That's almost half the album.

2:57 AM
For your reading pleasure, the almost-complete text of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty's The Manual - guide by the KLF masterminds on how to get a number one single. (This electronic copy, of dubious legality - note the ironically prominent copyright notices - doesn't include the introduction or Drummond's afterword included in currently-published editions.)

September 2, 2000

1:51 AM
Maybe add (see below):

11 / 7 / Reflection
9 / 2 / Teardrop (Scream Team Remix)

1:37 AM
The Mezzanine remixes convince me, if there was ever any doubt, that it was a good idea to not release a Mad Professor remix of the entire album, as was done for Protection. Though a bigger dub fan than me might beg to differ. Which is to say any dub fan, since I only own No Protection and, now, the odd Mezzanine era Mad Professor remix.

1:09 AM
And a comment about remixes.

As I've seen noted in some reviews, the earlier singles in the Massive Attack singles box are more straightforward: most of the Blue Lines singles are fairly similar to the originals, leaving most of the parts intact but perhaps making the basslines more club-friendly or adding some extra backing parts. So of course, the remixes I prefer are the later ones, where there's more deconstruction. For example, Underdog transforms "Sly" into a simmering, jazzy vamp with upright bassline and faint sheen of drum-n-bass cymbal noise and found sounds in the background.

What I've noticed, then - and I'm not sure if I consider it good or bad, or what - is that most of the remixers take their cues for pacing and rhythm from the vocal tracks, leaving them mostly untouched. In the Underdog "Sly" remix, the vocals remain but the new bassline complements them, and thus is about as fast as the old one (I think it seems a little peppier, though, because it's got fewer notes and so sounds less lumbering). This makes a lot of sense; we as listeners are so in tune to the nuances of the human voice that to chop up a vocal line could have unpleasant effects; other than that the best to hope for is to leave out some of the pauses between phrases (which may be what Underdog did on "Sly").

Compare to the frequent Mad Professor remixes, which (as suits dub remixes) excise vocals in order to manipulate the other parts of the music to do things that vocals make more difficult, like change the pacing (suspend motion, enter stasis), or make an accompaniment part more prominent (something of a no-no when there are vocals, because we have an urge to always be able to hear the vocal).

But - who cares about vocals? I want to see them chopped up more often, mangled, pieced back together with duct tape, krazy glue, transferred via silly putty.

1:05 AM
Picking tracks to play for a long Massive Attack set on my show tomorrow night, so notes for myself:

5 / 4 / Sly (Underdog Mix)
8 / 5 / Risingson (Underworld Mix)
11 / 4 / Inertia Creeps (State of Bengal Mix)
4 / 4 / Be Thankful For What You've Got (Perfecto Mix)

12:02 AM
Friends of mine, in particular Tim and Tom, may be interested and/or amused to find that I've taken a liking to the Underworld mix of "Risingson", on disc 8 of the Massive Attack singles box set.

I find this especially ironic because the Star Chamber was just discussing bands like Underworld last week or so, in connection with music from genres (like dance music) that gets all the props from critics of other genres (like rock music). So, for the first house track I am genuinely pleased by to be an Underworld one... well, let's just say that I claimed a week ago that this music on the edges of genres, the kind that gets outside acceptance, is better than nothing because it's a foot in the door. And I'm sticking by that. :)

I should note that it being a remix of a Massive Attack song has pretty much nothing to do with my liking it, because it's one of those remixes where the original is basically lost. The main synth part (uh, only two chords?) sounds like it was based on the progression to the original, and every once in a while the "toy like / boy like" part of the vocals returns, but other than that, nothing.

The original contained a sample of the Velvet Underground's "I Found a Reason". So are any royalties due because of this remix? :)

September 1, 2000

8:46 PM
Pet Sounds: Don't Believe the Hype? [from pearl]

8:38 PM
Warning, butterfly collecting ahead.

At In Review Sterling says the following of the claim in this Feed essay that the Elephant 6 bands are 90s representatives of progressive rock: "I'm wanting to disagree, but I can't think why I would."

It's simple: the only things most E6 bands have in common with canonical prog (early King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, ELP) is that they've put out albums of music that are supposed to be thematically unified somehow, like Elf Power's A Dream in Sound or OTC's Dusk at Cubist Castle. But it's more complicated than that: for one thing, there are few "concept albums" (because that's what we're talking about here) in canonical prog. Rather, people equate the two because of some occasional concept albums by the canonical bands, and then stuff like Pink Floyd's The Wall (Pink Floyd barely ever being prog to begin with, and most people picking Wish You Were Here as the best example of their prog output) or Rush's 2112 (which contained a sidelong suite about a futuristic, fascistic society - or something or other - set free by the power of music, and which was Ayn Rand -influenced and thus earned Rush and prog in general, by sloppy generalization, the permanent association with one of the worst, most popular "philosophies" of our century) - concept albums by bands that weren't ever all that prog, and became less so.

The reason this association took place is that early canonical prog was pursuing various non-rock things like incorporation of outside idioms (jazz, but mostly romantic-period classical), greater structural complexity (in the classical music sense of the word, usually), and a "serious" rock music not about getting the girl, etc. (which has let one writer, and I forget who, to note - and I misquote, at that - "prog music was skilled musicians getting tired of three-minute songs about love and instead writing twenty-minute songs about nothing in particular"). At a quick glance, technical ability, longer songs, and a few overarching metaphors and references to wizards or futuristic societies are a quick stand-in for these musical changes - thus, "concept album" as prog.

Compare now to the E6 bands. Some, like the Apples in Stereo, really have little to do with even the concept album end of things (a bit on Her Wallpaper Reverie maybe, but keep reading). Some, like Elf Power, seem to have a larger-than-normal stock of recurring themes, lyrical references, some kind of developed iconography - but they still tend to have short psychedelic rock-pop songs that don't attempt any of the idiomatic or structural changes that prog did. Olivia Tremor Control have the backing story, the characters, the references (cf. the recurring "California demise"), and, arguably, are attempting to do something with the form and idiom of the music, using the studio to achieve a high level of internal musical reference (cf. the Black Foliage liner notes where they talk about recording the title "animation", then chopping it up and distorting it and then using it elsewhere, in other songs, or just between songs, etc.), and to blend their base material (psychedelic Beatlesque/Beach Boy esque pop songs) with something else (spacy musique concrete?).

So have we finally found prog? Well, yes and no. It's a funny word. Something like Black Foliage might count as "prog" in the sense that it attempts something of the "progression" (huge can of worms here) that the original prog did. However, soon after prog was named, the name broke: now I am not inclined to use it to describe what OTC do because it's not specific enough. The original prog bands drew specifically on classical and jazz, and notably, were usually extremely technically proficient (again in the classical/jazz sense - standards of proficiency differ). Neither of these seems to be true of OTC - so while they might be "progressive" they aren't "prog", because the term now has only a historical usage.

Anyway - I think that in an important sense, the Feed author was wrong. One can debate the progness of various new music acts based on other criteria (for instance, a lot of the same kind of earnest white young adults listen to the E6 bands, as listened to prog, etc.), but I think that misses the point. The musical elements were the primary thing separating the initial prog bands from their contemporaries.

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steal this blog!

in my head:

Outkast, Aquemeni, Morphine, A Tribe Called Quest, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi recordings, Guru's Jazzmatazz, Flare, Circa