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November 30, 2000

10:31 PM
Oh, shut up with the lists, Josh, I hear you whine. Give us CONTENT. And so.


I would love it if music were released with all tracks (tracks recorded, i.e. the individual layers, not the tracks on the CD) independently playable. Then I could fiddle with this to see if there is any one thing about it that makes me love it so much. Because it seems so simple, and I swear it has to be the muted klaxxon effect of the main synth. Nothing makes me feel more sympathetic to structuralism than this song, at the moment.

Generation Sex:

The jokes are funny, sort of (oh how that woman's voice annoys me, though), but in the end I find it sad more than anything else. The bite seems undercut by a sense not just of the hypocrisies and injustices (um... I can't remember an exact quote right now, but something like, e.g., "generation sex approves of women taking off their clothes, as long as we can watch..." etc. roughly), like righteousness and indignation or whatever, but disappointment, that things didn't work out. And "didn't," because it's set against a storming (well it sounds like this to me, but you know me and pop) faux-60s pop background. So. Kind of a reference to idealistic times (like, you know, the 90s were rumored to be, once).

With harps, god help me, which I am made giddy by.

Softly as the Morning Sunrise:

Something from a Rodgers and Hammerstein thing, I think, but I've never heard the original. Tyner is amazing. Like mentioned in Jordan's tidbit about Tyner's double-jointedness below, Tyner just SNAPS at the keys - there's something amazing about piano playing being so hard and so nimble at the same time. Elvin Jones' brushwork is awesome too; I read recently of an album (can't remember the name, dammit) where he was asked to play as he was then doing with Coltrane's quartet (i.e. swing everywhere, polyrhythms galore - just a churning, fantastic rhythm), only with brushes. Must hear. Anyway, the brushwork: always the kind of thing I think of first when I hear "skittering rhythms" (second: drum n bass, third: Dismemberment Plan and Burning Airlines, fourth: that Soul Coughing song where he sings about skittering into the East River). If I ever have a band, there will be brushwork.

Green Day songs:

Ah, girls.

My hands smell like onions.

10:03 PM
Short list of songs I have been enamored with lately.

Massive Attack - Risingson (Underworld Mix)
Divine Comedy - Generation Sex
John Coltrane - Softly as the Morning Sunrise
the aforementioned Green Day songs

I have also found myself listening to a few of the singles from the Massive Attack singles box, at length.

8:24 PM
Partial mail from Tom (not
this one but man would that be even better):

and you're right about "at the library." jon sucks.

1:36 PM
Walking basslines make me feel good.

12:25 AM

My patience for anything new or challenging has gone down a great deal. Old, comfortable favorites are better.

12:19 AM
As quiet as my room seems to be lately, you'd think that my stereo was broken. But I just haven't been happy listening to anything for a long period of time. I'll throw on a CD for one or two plays at most, then get sick of music and decide to just play nothing. I'm still listening to a lot of music, but there's a quite noticeable drop.

This is in sharp contrast to the times when I leave the apartment, when I listen to my headphones, and enjoy it greatly; I think, because of the walking. And the isolation. I want to continue on, not make my intended destinations - just walk down Lincoln Way until I'm out in the countryside. And I don't want to take my headphones off, either. I've been leaving them on for brief stops in my office and at restaurants, where I would usually bow to politeness.

November 29, 2000

9:02 PM
Well, probably hearing "Ventolin" on the radio is a bigger thrill though. Except that he CUT IT OFF and re-started it after doing a station ID. Doh.


8:41 PM
Aw, hell, the printer thing was just a jokey track from the new Man or Astro Man?.

Oh, well.

8:32 PM
Ugh, but now there's some Beulah song where they just made a terribly coy extended reference to the Bret Harte story "The Outcasts of Poker Flats." Ugh.

And: when I wrote that just now I spelled it "Outkast." Crunk.

8:28 PM
Holy shit, I think someone just played
this, which I linked to back in June, on the radio. College radio, but still.

7:46 PM
Jordan passed along this:

Interesting tidbit I heard the other day: part of the reason McCoy Tyner could play so powerfully as to actually break piano strings in a live setting is that his fingers were double-jointed, and he got momentum from that extra 'whip' when slamming down those block chords. So says my friend's professor at Berklee.

5:02 PM
OK, back to the question, which if you'll recall was

Do you think listening to jazz a lot means you concentrate a lot more on individual instrumental performances in pop or rock, and assess that rather than the overall impact (whatever that is)... I ask this after reading your entries, which even accounting for your general hostility (insert smiley here) are very different from anyone else's in their separation of individual song-components from questions of performance, style, attitude.

I wrote a bit on this below. So now I want to think about how jazz affects the way I listen, more generally.

Certainly, in pretty much everything I listen to, jazz or not, I focus a lot on the individual performances, or individual parts: the drumming, the bass line, the trumpet solo, the beat programming, etc. It's hard for me make a distinction between the way my habits have been moulded by playing an instrument, though, and listening to jazz, since I sort of started doing the two things at the same time.

As someone who performed an instrument, I think I got a much better idea of how music is built up, in pretty much all cases, but the combination of different parts. That seems trite, perhaps. But when you're an inexperienced musician, a lot of your struggle goes into just getting your own part right, so you're very focused on just that, an individual part. Later that extends to other peoples' parts, as you start to understand some more general things about the music being played. Also, you gradually become more and more sensitive to the relationship between your part and the rest of the parts, which is in my opinion the important thing, seeing as how we hear "whole" or at least more complicated combinations of these parts when we listen to music.

So maybe part of the reason I tend to focus on individual parts is that - that I sort of have to, in order to get the big picture. This isn't to say that I'm sitting around transcribing basslines or anything, while ignoring everything else. It's a very holistic process - there's a lot of give and take between focusing on specific parts, lots of parts, and the relationships between them. That's why I need a long time to appreciate many things, or why I find re-listening so valuable: there's so much to pay attention to.

I think all of this works for any kind of music, but some music more than others. I realize this may very much be a prejudice I've brought to other music from jazz, but I think that the heightened sensitivity to the relationships between the various parts of a piece of music is one of the things that makes it great - I'm thinking in particular here of when musicians employ that sensitivity as performers and writers. It's hard to talk about this without talking about pure technical skill at performing; I think this kind of sensitivity is manifest in all kinds of ways, but it's easiest to see as applies to pure skill. When a piece of music is primarily recorded-as-performed, if the musicians are able enough with their instruments or their voices or whatever, they'll be able to keep up, pay attention to what's going on while they're performing their own parts, and that attention will inform how they play. So sometimes I find this quality lacking in some popular music - like, the musicians are together enough and everything, but it's as if the bass player is just taking the trouble to play his part with the beat, and so on, little more.

Augh. This is incredibly hard to explain without leaning on conventional notions of goodness, which I don't mean to do. There are plenty of popular artists that I think do this sort of thing great. Outkast. The Dismemberment Plan. Tribe. Fugazi. Will Oldham. Boards of Canada. Yo La Tengo. Um. Trust me, there are more. And over broad enough styles and notions of "good" that I don't think what I'm talking about is limited to the values I've picked up from jazz. Or from a bias toward live performance, on "real instruments."

James Brown! Autechre.

4:37 PM
The pattern:

  • start playing "Softly as a Morning Sunrise" from Coltrane's Village Vanguard Master Takes album
  • think, "McCoy Tyner is a genius"
  • be lulled into the groove
  • (time elapses)
  • notice that "Chasin' the Trane" has already been playing for a few minutes
  • set CD player back to track 2
  • rinse, repeat

1:32 PM
Maybe I should just let Jon take over josh blog for a week. It would be very easy reading. ;)

From: Jon Stewart
Subject: dude
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 12:30:38 CST

Green Day sucks.

your helpful arbiter of taste

3:31 AM
Shellac, "Pull the Cup"

It sounds like Albini's playing a goddamn electrified cheese grater or boiled egg slicer or something, with his bare fingers - it's too hard to get any play out of the thing at first, and his fingers are bleeding and tearing but he fumbles on, noise-guitar for idiots, until he's got enough of a riff going that Todd Trainer and Bob Weston come in behind him with the groove (or "time" and "mass" according to the credits).

I hope the surprise with which I first heard this album never completely wears off. I want to always be able to remember the shock I felt at being both appalled and amazed at how abrasive Albini's guitar could be. He is a sick man who should be kept far from children.

2:55 AM
Hey, it's not like I'm a Belle and Sebastian fan.

1:35 AM
Fuck me, I sure would have rather been reminded about these Green Day songs like one month ago. It would have been perfect. Almost. Lyrical exactitude is an impossible ideal. And Kris was right, "Going to Pasalacqua" is great too.

Actually, some of them still fit pretty well. Viva pop music.

Yes, I really am going to quote all three of these.

"At the Library"

Hey there lookin' at me
Tell me what do you see
But you quickly turn your head away
Try to find the words I could use
Don't have the courage to come up to you
My chance is looking a bit grey

Starting across the room
Are you leaving soon?
I just need a little time

What is that drives me mad
Girls like you that I never had
What is it about you that I adore?
What makes me go so insane
That makes me feel so much pain
What is it about you that I adore?

Why did you have to leave so soon?
Why did you have to walk away?
Oh well it happened again
She walked away with her boyfriend
Maybe we'll meet again someday

"Paper Lanterns"

Now I rest my head from
Such an endless dreary time
A time of hopes & happiness
That had you on my mind
Those days are gone & now it seems
As if I'll get some rest
But now & then I'll see you again
And it puts my heart to the test

So when are all my problems going to end?
I'm understanding now that
We are only friends
To this day I'm asking why
I still think about you

As the days go on I wonder
(Will this ever end?)
I find it hard to keep control
When you're with your boyfriend
I do not mind if all I am is
Just a friend to you
But all I want to know right now
Is if you think about me too...?

"Going to Pasalacqua"

Here we go again, infatuation
Touches me just when I
Thought that it would end
Oh but then again it seems
Much more than that but
I'm not sure exactly what you're thinking

I toss and turn all night
Thinking of your ways of effection
But to find that it's not different at all
I throw away my past mistakes
And contemplate my future
That's when I say...
What the hey!?!

Would I last forever?
You and I together, hand and hand
We run away (far away)
I'm in for nasty weather
But I'll take whatever you can
give that comes my way
(far away)

These are an excellent example of what a role delivery plays in pop music. Reading them without hearing them is, to be blunt, a bit painful. And not in the good sense. But with Billie Joe's tortured yalp and jittery diction, they're totally different.

November 28, 2000

10:33 PM
You may have already been around that way, but if not do read Tom's new articles on the
new Godspeed and Mazarin records. I am thinking about them quite a bit.

10:30 PM
Kris has proclaimed Green Day's "At the Library" one of the greatest songs ever, and tonight I am inclined to agree with him.

12:51 PM
Jon is considering it.

12:34 PM
A question.

Do you think listening to jazz a lot means you concentrate a lot more on individual instrumental performances in pop or rock, and assess that rather than the overall impact (whatever that is)... I ask this after reading your entries, which even accounting for your general hostility (insert smiley here) are very different from anyone else's in their separation of individual song-components from questions of performance, style, attitude.

Well, there are a few things going on here, I think. First of all, I really didn't like a lot of the focus group music (see last year's if you don't know what I'm talking about; this is in regards to my ballot for this year). Like, really didn't like it. Really really. But I was trying to be (a) charitable, and (b) utterly honest, since I'm well aware that I have lots of prejudices against pop music. So if I liked anything, at all, I seized on it. In pop music this generally means little bits of the production, basslines, things of that sort, because it's usually the overall effect that I don't like.

So, there's that. And I think that accounts for most of what you saw there.

More on the more general question, as to whether I concentrate more on individual performances, etc. (specific sounds even) in pop or rock more because of my jazz listening, later. Like tonight.

3:15 AM
Someday I will determine the strange powers that conspire to make me love The Boatman's Call more than any of my other Nick Cave CDs. Maybe it's that I don't own any of the actual older ones. Before Live Seeds I mean.

there is a kingdom
there is a king

God, it makes me gag as a philosopher, but...

12:56 AM
One of these days soon I'm going to hold a marathon session and listen to nothing but Thelonious Monk until I've heard all 15 discs in the Riverside box. Maybe this weekend.

12:39 AM
I think I've listened to disc 2 of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Urban Bushmen, a concert recording from 1980, about 3 times so far. The first time I listened all the way through, but the next two, I stopped. Why? Track 2, "Ancestral Meditation," appears to be completely silent (they may be doing things I can't hear, even with the volume up - all five members are given writing credits, but then again, you know, ha ha). 7 minutes or so of silent. So rather than be peeved, I've found I rather like it. I don't stop the CD because I don't like the music, but because trying out the silence in the middle of my typical continuous deluge of the stuff just seems refreshing. So I stop it playing, to have more silence, rather than the music which starts up again.

So. It may very well be that my favorite track on these two discs of highly accomplished free jazz is, so far, the one with no playing on it. And I mean that as nicely as possible. I think John Cage would be proud.

November 27, 2000

9:57 PM
I'm not much for stats - I check mine occasionally, just out of curiosity (I get referral stats, which are the interesting part) - but I saw something of note today. I seem to have had an influx of traffic from superhuge megacorps, or their domains at least, including,, and Nice to see that more than just college students and people on home dialups are wasting their lives away here. Some people are wasting The Man's money, too. Rock.

12:16 AM
My old roommate passed through town and I had a relaxing time visiting with him, and then some more relaxing time later just lazing about, savoring the end of my brief break. So, nothing to offer on what I listened to (Masada, Low, Weezer, Mogwai) save that sometimes, even I just like to sit down and listen to my favorite music and not think about it.

November 26, 2000

7:56 PM
Eh. I had a longer entry here but I didn't like it.

So: Low don't seem all that slow once you get used to them, and sometimes I rather wish music journalists would get over it, because it's not the whole story.

12:42 PM
Last night I heard The Bends drifting out of someone's apartment out in the hallway, and had an incredible urge to listen to it again - it feels like it's been at least a year, but I can't remember really. But, listen to it loud, the right way. So, listening now to Radiohead, loud. It makes me feel good. I'd forgotten how much I love the screech-solo on "Just".

It's of course very hard to separate social pressures from everything else, but this makes me feel as if not enough credit is given to people - kids I mean - listening to things just because they make them feel good, because they like the way they sound. Listening to "alternative" music need not always be some kind of social choice, and I think people overlook that. Things are always much more complicated than they appear.

November 25, 2000

11:21 PM
I love computers.

Customers who bought titles by Boredoms also bought titles by these artists:

  • Melt Banana
  • Melvins
  • Suicide
  • Amon Tobin
  • Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

10:31 PM
Digging through old email, I found this exchange between Tom and myself.

>>liked by this vision was dampened by the sudden remembrance that one
>>of the hairier members of Soundgarden was also called Kim, ditto a
>Hey! Don't be dissin' Kim Thayil!

Facts aren't disses. He was hairy!!

10:08 PM
I found one of the most utterly un-apt phrases I've read in a while, in a book promo:

Wynton Marsalis, one of the most intriguing artists of our time

9:51 PM
Lingua Franca
overview of jazz books.

9:50 PM
The Work Itself

9:44 PM
Some kind of music-related journal, looks very interesting.

6:44 PM
Not a typo, Mike tells me.

5:12 PM
A nice overview of the Minutemen with some perceptive things to say about, in particular, Double Nickels on the Dime. It occurs to me that maybe I've read and linked to this before, but one can never be sure.

4:48 PM
Typo at the All-Music Guide?

The Germs
Formed 1977
Disbanded 1980
Group Members Belinda Carlisle, Pat Smear, Nickey Beat, Don Bonebrake, Darby Crash, Don Bolles, Donna Rhia, Lorna Doom

3:31 PM
Just now singing along to "Back and Forth" I noticed that I had not in fact been singing the words to the song, or really even any coherent words at all: "fack n morth, fack n morth..."

3:20 PM
Recently Sterling said

CATOM has some interesting thoughts re: pop culture naysayers, but leaves out the all important social factor. What do I mean? Well, the question is what people want culture for -- so the argument that pop culture does certain things poorly where high culture does not -- well, who says those things that high culture provides are for everyone anyway?

Who says? It's a legacy from the traditional valuing of rationality over irrationality, beauty over non-beauty. The ideal over the functional. Also the conflation of the moral with the aesthetic with the political with... everything (hello, Plato). It's supposed to be good for you to listen to Bach rather than Britney. But you knew that.

Incidentally, the way you state it also implies that there are some things pop culture does "well" (high culture probably doesn't see it that way) that high culture does poorly - or at least, that it's possible. So of course, the typical line is that, yes, pop culture is quite good at... being functional, irrational pleasures, what have you, anything not already deemed good. Things high culture wants no business with.

3:?? PM
Re the last question - that's what I mean.

3:04 PM
Shame, shame on me. "Spider in the Snow" isn't all that slow a song, in terms of tempo. But while thinking about it I committed the fallacy that, long ago, my band director was forced to constantly correct us on: conflating "slow" with "quiet". "Spider" is neither of these, but it's more "quiet" than many of the other songs, and a little tiny bit slower, so there I go, thinking "that's a slow song."

2:?? PM
Today I thought idly about the lengths of the tracks on Emergency & I.

  1. A Life of Possibilities - 4:34
  2. Memory Machine - 2:43
  3. What Do You Want Me to Say? - 4:18
  4. Spider in the Snow - 3:50
  5. The Jitters - 4:19
  6. I Love a Magician - 2:38
  7. You Are Invited - 4:52
  8. Gyroscope - 2:29
  9. The City - 4:26
  10. Girl O'Clock - 2:54
  11. 8 1/2 Minutes - 2:57
  12. Back and Forth - 5:07

Comparing the times listed to one another, and to my own mental impressions of how long the tracks last, I was surprised at how much they agreed. I have a very definite sense of which songs are the shorter ones, for example, and which ones are longer, despite the fact that the times don't differ by all that much. Somehow the songs seem to magnify those times. "A Life of Possibilities" is measured, kind of a gearing-up song. "Spider in the Snow" and "The Jitters" are slower, and so like most slower songs they take a little longer to say what they have to say. "The City" and "Back and Forth" are not slow, but they have an appropriate feel of the epic to them, the latter in particular. "What Do You Want Me to Say?" is the one I'm not so sure about lumping in here, but it too seems to be just the right length. As for the other songs, they are more succinct, but I think this is because they're more intensely focused, and the band realized this enough to, again, say just what they had to say with the songs.

Well, more succinct, save "You Are Invited," which like the slower songs needs its time in order to say what it's saying; in order to let the shuffling little narrative take hold, and to set the stage for the surprise.

"Say" - not meant to be a comment on any meaning or purpose to the songs, as if they could just be replaced by thesis statements, but rather a reference to some notion of imminent form.

2:37 PM
Last night (well at 4:30 AM or so) I had the curious sensation of being unwilling to play music while I went to sleep.

Before I drifted off it was very, very quiet. And somewhat unnerving.

1:40 AM
In order to capture the appropriate level of irony I just thought I should also inform you, dear reader, that I'm now listening to Kid A, CDP 7243 5 27753 2 3.

1:25 AM
There's something endearing about the CDs in the stacks around my room with low numbers on them. SP34b. TG211. THRILL050. EGCD15. CHSW13.

The owners of small labels must look on these with some pride, the ever-climbing catalog numbers. One small way of measuring the work they've done.

To Columbia or Capitol, they're just catalog numbers.

1:08 AM
So I found a list lying around that look like a my-favorite-album-from-each-letter type list, but it has a Dick Dale compilation alongside Miles Davis. Ooops. I guess I wasn't done with that copy.

November 24, 2000

9:06 PM
Fuck, man, what a song.

7:41 PM
Fife: ya on point, Tip?
Tip: all the time, Fife

2:38 PM
So, listening today. A reader contacted me asking if I would bring back the old now playing sidebar, but I'm undecided as of yet. Perhaps I'll just do this kind of thing more often.

Boards of Canada, Music Has the Right to Children as I woke since I played it to go to sleep to. But I've woken up feeling bad and cranky every day this week, and for some reason this just did not sit well at all this morning, at exactly the wrong volume (most of the floaty atmospherics inaudible, beats just... irritating, rickety).

Dismemberment Plan, Emergency & I - after my shower, reading my mail, wondering why I don't eat if I feel hungry (I have yet to... hmmm). By now I'm so close to this album that even just the two drum hits at the beginning of "Back and Forth" do it for me. And what do you know, I find myself reading this nice review and saying "what a smart reviewer," and... it's Ned!

Bad Religion, Suffer all the way through (which isn't saying much, the songs are all like less than 2 minutes long, heh). From before they became whatever it is exactly they are now. Eh.

Then, on mega-super-dooper shuffle, Nirvana - Incesticide, Bad Religion - Suffer and Against the Grain, Fugazi - Repeater + 3 Songs, Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor. In progress.

Bad Religion are sort of like my high school pep band. All of their songs are the same tempo. Well, that's not fair. They have slower songs. But they're not as good, in general, as the faster ones. Which again, though, is like my high school pep band. We never played any songs with "obsequious" in the lyrics though.

2:29 PM
I'm not sure, but I think maybe the reason the end of Fugazi's Repeater + 3 Songs CD sounds so unfamiliar to me is that, well, it is. I must've first started listening to it around the time I worked at DWX, which means I was probably a) constantly interrupted at my CD listening by calls from stupid customers, and/or b) antsy and in 'work' mode, which means that I would switch CDs whenever I had the least inclination to.

Some CDs must've made it through OK, though. I wonder which ones.

2:00 PM
Bad Religion is not always so good for combating fatalism and pessimism. Lyrics to the title track to Suffer:

Did you ever see the concrete stares of everyday? The lunatic, the hypocrite are all lost in the fray. Can't you see their lives are just like yours? An unturned stone in an undiscovered door leading to the gift of hope renewed eternity for you. The masses of humanity have always had to suffer. The business man whose master plan controls the world each day is blind to indications of of his species' slow decay. People blow their minds (they choose to resign). This deformed society is part of the design it'll never go away (it's in the cards that way). The masses of humanity will always have to suffer.

At least they play fast and there are lots of guitars. Neeeer neeer wrnrrnrnrnrnrn. Yah.

1:13 AM

When there's no music on I feel jittery but the music playing irritates me too.

November 23, 2000

6:36 PM
you hafta sleep late when you can
and all your bad days will end

5:14 PM
The lyrics to Burning Airlines' "Meccano":

I had my fun watching my undoing on the tv. When I woke up no one spoke of how long I'd been sleeping. The weather where I wenttobedwhereIwasledbycertainawkward strange conditions alwaysalwaysalways came in rain of pens with probing dispositions. Making money on the radio, whatyoubeenselling we don't want to know. Machinations of the hitparade. Uneasy living in the bed we made. The sound of fashion (fascin) comes in stereo, holding hands with Mr. Meccano Meccano! Sometime later on we pushed the fader towards translation. The language from the doctor's mouth still got lost on all the patients. The bottom line was lookingsomuchfinerfinerfingerfromthebottom of the deep end. It depends on how much money it can take to buy air for the breathing. Hidden camera catches shoplifter in act of trading red trousers for gray to match his suit to get a job to get employed. If all the color's bad what will we wear when all the color's bad?

So, yeah. Get it? That's OK. Me either. Many of their lyrics, actually, but these stand out because they're the only ones written by Bill Barbot. The run-togethers aren't typos; that's the way they're printed on the lyric sheet. Trying to following along is even a little hilarious, because (and I think Barbot takes his only vocal here too) he really slurs through the run-together words, and sort of omits huge portions of them. It's as if he wrote the lyrics first, and decided that they should go with the music the band worked up, and then didn't feel like excising anything in order to get them to scan. Or, better: they're like lyrics written by a listener to the song, if it were already finished. You know - how you're glad to just sing whatever fits along with a song, because it just seems right. (This can also be humorous, as when you sing with a friend and one knows the words but the other doesn't, or you disagree on which made-up sounds to put where, or the fact that you can hear each other making up words illuminates the siliness even further.)

Also, the end of the song above is sung in a kind of round, and has a great buildup of intensity to match.

Music critics are already harassed plenty for their often undue focus on rock lyrics, but, well, they probably deserve it more. But today this makes me think about the classical song, in which supposedly the vocal line and the poem to which the music is set (and it's usually, like, highbrow kind of stuff) have an extremely close relationship; the vocal line is supposed to bring out the essence of the poem, somehow. Classical fans like to draw parallels between classical songs, and popular songs, and then of course find the latter wanting, because they work with completely different criteria. I can't tell you what makes "Meccano" so powerful to me, but it involves what they're singing, and how they're singing it. If I try to refer to the lyrics to explain it to you, I'll be thwarted, because, well, I'm not sure what they mean. This need not mean they are meaningless, though, or that the music is inappropriate.

3:45 PM
"Protection (The Eno Mix)" is... I don't know, just a little off. For a long time there are no beats, and later there are, but they're muffled, dominated by floaty atmospheric sounds (patented by Eno ca. 1972 I do believe). Massive Attack's is a very grounded music, to me, probably mostly due to the beats. Ungrounding it seems not so prudent.

The weakest point of the "J Swift Mix" is, like many of the mixes in the singles box, the vocal track - simply because it seems like it needs a busier vocal, rather than the languid one from the original track, which they've barely touched.

More remixers should have vocalists record new vocals. More trouble and money maybe, but, eh.

3:20 PM
Is there anything more horrible than listening to the "Protection" single from the Massive Attack box, and having your CD player make funny noises exactly halfway through the original mix? No, on this fine day, no there is not.

1:32 AM
Sterling pointed to this article by Simon Reynolds which I must read, but not right now.

12:13 AM
11:18 PM
So I'm looking for an encapsulated way of describing Exile in Guyville but coming up short - because, I think, much of the record defies such encapsulation. Usually I would expect to say that about something wildly complex in its sound or style or form, but this is not such a record. There are murky synth burbles and some multitracked Lizzes and such, but for the most part the sound is straightforward. The complexity is emotional, because (whether artifice or nakedly direct confessional - does it matter?), the record presents (no, more - hits me with, like somebody sitting on my chest) me with contradictions and hopes and fears and pains from a real person. This is why it looks, at the moment, like a real feminist music will never overcome the mainstream, never subvert it, never slowly impress upon people its influence: because it should be a fucking mess, sometimes, and people don't like to have their drive to work marred by a fucking mess. They'd rather have nicely encapsulated anger, or delicate woman-crap.

November 22, 2000

11:39 PM
An old
profile of Arto Lindsay at motion.

12:39 PM
Woo hoo, I'm eliciting all kinds of good responses with my half-assed argument. Maybe I should just make an effort to be more half-assed all the time.

About indie music: the thing is, though, it's not all 'lo-fi'. Certainly that is a specific aesthetic choice, or family of aesthetic choices, that a band (and thus the listeners) can make. But there's a lot of indie music that's not really at all lo-fi, these days, as the music has grown enough to where it's OK to use decent recording techniques, etc. Chart pop doesn't have a leg up in production in that sense. What I want to say is that it's got a kind of sheen to it, and I mean that generally enough to encompass whatever it is about what it is I'm hearing that makes me feel the way I do, not just superficial production details like whether the drums echo a lot or not.

The point about narratives and special effect spectacles is excellent.

2:03 AM
The new remastered Red from King Crimson seems to sound about as much nicer as the remastered Larks Tongues sounds.

And Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville is nice.

That is all.

1:57 AM
Maura called tonight and we played name-that-tune. I got "So What" from its two-note theme! Well, after I mistakenly checked "All Blues" first to see if I was right. Oops.

But - I'm not sure how much it helped, knowing the song was playing in a restaurant. I didn't feel myself making any kinds of rational deductions.

Anyway... nice to know that I know one of my three favorite albums at least somewhat well. :)

1:55 AM
Oh, and apologies in advance to Mark Richardson, if you've never read my comment on your Diamanda Galas review before. I was feeling especially rude that day! I'm not going to point to it, though - you have to run across it by chance. :)

November 21, 2000

9:20 PM
I have a favor to ask: josh blog's one-year birthday is coming up on December 26, 2000, and I am looking back over what I have done. I am very interested in anything you, the reader, found particularly interesting or insightful, as often it seems I have little idea what will interest my readers. So, if you could, in the coming month, sift idly through the
archives and let me know about your favorite material there, I would greatly appreciate it.

I may work something up based on what I'm sent, but only if it seems appropriate; at base this is just a selfish request, to help me evaluate myself.

7:36 PM
Fake Authenticity: An Introduction, which I found thanks to Mike, troubles me.

It's difficult to push through the layers of jargon and reference in order to explain why, though.

6:41 PM
I'm going picture-crazy!

Back sez:

Minton's Playhouse, birthplace of bop, New York City, 1948
Thelonious Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge & Teddy Hill
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb

Off of a postcard that Damon sent me from Boston this summer. Yes, I know Boston has nothing to do with New York.

2:59 PM
I am only whispering along to the Dismemberment Plan, at the moment. I'm not sure why. Singing feels bad. Meekness, good.

yoooou arrrrre inviiiited

11:56 AM
OK, nice. So: how far do we carry this kind of technological praise in music, then? Stuttering rhythm tracks and drum n bass have been around for a while now.

I'm so cranky. Where are my Fugazi CDs?

3:09 AM
This new entry from Mike may add to things bandied about below.

1:44 AM
Motion on Oui

1:04 AM
"Nothing is good save the new. If a thing have novelty it stands intrinsically beside every other work of artistic excellence. If it have not that, no loveliness or heroic proportion or grand manner will save it. It will not be saved above all by an attenuated intellectuality."

"Prologue to Kora in Hell"
WCW Selected Essays p21

12:03 AM
'Just as calculated:' what sort of relationship is important between what the record company wants, and what the musician wants, in the cases of chart pop and, uh, Radiohead? Isn't the kind of calculation engaged in by Radiohead's record company ("oh boy, more CD sales to vaguely trendy types... [rest of Otis's rant here]") somewhat incidental to how their music comes out? It does seem fair, given what we know, to say - 'no, hell no,' in the case of some less high-profile rock bands, who are pushed around by their labels, etc. But with many, the labels are (as I hear it) more hands-off - kind of taking the marketing of a band's album as a crap shoot, hoping that leaving them to their business will result in sales to a market that the record company otherwise has trouble accessing.

November 20, 2000

11:56 PM
Regarding the popular approach that places the modern pop producer as an auteur, perhaps not as strongly as in the film sense, but definitely one with major control over the music.

Can liking a piece of pop music for the innovative production, while ignoring or passing over quietly the lyrics, be likened to liking big movies for the special effects, car chase scenes, etc.? Profitably? How far can this be taken?

11:30 PM
Recall the quote from Otis below.

I'm going to get all snotnosed here, just to get the ideas down with economy. I don't really agree that strongly with what I'm about to type in. But for some reason I feel the need to be this way.

Otis conflates manufacturedness and calculatedness. 'Manufactured' is used to describe pop music (of the Britney variety) because of the way it is produced. It should conjure up images of assembly lines for good reason; many people are involved in the process, yet no single one has a major impact on the final product. There's a word for this, it's 'alienation,' in the Marxist sense. The product is also prone to mediocrity, as it's intended to please a large market with poor critical skills.

'Calculated' describes the attitude with which the creators of the music regard the act of creation. In one sense all (or most at least) music is calculated. But a more specific sense is meant here. 'Calculated' can mean that the musicians are creating music with the explicit goal in mind of appealing to a certain demographic, either commercially or just musically. Often when used in this sense the word seems to imply a kind of forsaking of artistic ideals, the idea being that music created with calculated intent is less valuable than music without out, where the artist is freer to do as they please. There is also the notion that, again, this kind of calculation results in mediocre music, as above. The reason that 'calculated' and 'manufactured' are not interchangeable, despite this similarity in usages, is that a band or any musician can still have a lot invested, personally, in their music. They can calculate all they want without ever being alienated from what they're creating.

I'm not sure if Radiohead's music is calculated or not, in the sense of deliberate commercial appeal. If so, they apparently are very poor at this kind of thing, because they could have been much more successful with something far less forbidding to most of their potential audience. But - their music is still obviously very calculated, in that the relationship between the band's music (and the band) and its public assessment was very much under scrutiny by the band itself. That is, they were definitely calculating something.

The first paragraph above, about manufacturedness, is clearly the weak one.

More to come. This is all too wrong.

10:57 PM
mom says
we ruined
her body

4:52 PM
I think the untitled track on Alice in Chains' Dirt robs the album of a little bit of its power; there are some guitar noises, and Layne Staley howling and acting all devil-like, and thems some laughing. Too silly. Perhaps it points to how much of the rest of the music is very mannered and calculated, deliberate; but listeners know that, they just don't want to be told that even though Layne was (still is, I'm sure, ha ha) hooked on SMACK, he doesn't sit around howling at the moon about a rooster doing something or other very deep and angsty, really, ever. (This is the case for many metal bands, I think.)

4:26 PM
Oh, cool, my speakers were shaking so much playing "Junkhead" that some CDs fell off them. :)

10:04 AM
I want!

3:27 AM
One more thing before sleepy time: how in the hell do they edit Mystikal's "Shake Ya Ass" down for top 40 airplay? All the best parts would have to go, leaving behind NO SONG.

2:22 AM
I didn't ask, but I hope Otis won't care. I'm quoting him.

Radiohead are about an image manufactured to appeal to a certain subset of people, namely vaguely trendy types who feel it necessary to hold music up to an objective sense of good while at the same time railing against a typical or canonical objective sense of good. The amount of people who bought Kid A because they had a hankering for middling, anesthetic IDM-rock with token free-jazz touches is dwarfed by the amount of people who bought it because they wanted to feel smug and self-righteous for listening to anti-mainstream indie-hit-of-the-moment so-called 'difficult' music. Godspeed, Belle & Sebastian, and numerous other indie gods are just as calculated, if in different ways. Are their manufactured images superior to Britney's simply because theirs are cerebral, hers functional? Why is Radiohead's type of innovation--essentially stylistic consolidation and repackaging for a rock audience of what was only vaguely avant-garde in the first place--automatically superior to the innovations in production of DMX, Britney, or so much current R&B?

Quoting, because he was prompted to make such a response to someone on the drone list who made an offhand comment about manufactured pop - and I wanted to discuss a couple things which Otis saves me the trouble of restating.

This is a common response (from people who like pop music, often) made in response to claims that pop music is manufactured and thus less valuable. I often wonder if it's true, though. There seems to be a grain of truth in it which is then wrongly reinforced.

I will explain this tomorrow - tired now.

November 19, 2000

9:19 PM
Hmmm. Somehow I was thinking I would like "My My Metrocard" more. Hmph.

But oh man, this live Mr. Bungle, doing a Super Mario Brothers medley, is fucking awesome. Not that I would listen to it repeatedly, but... what a cool band. Dude! They even play the underwater music!

2:30 AM
I'm not really sure it means anything to me, but since I tell you, dear reader, all kinds of things, I thought, why not this. The Leon Redbone CD below made the first time I owned 1000 discs, that I actually entered into my database (some things just never make it that far, heh heh). But I gave my mom my extra Doors best-of since it might work on her CD player, so I'm back down again. :)

2:25 AM
Currently astounding (used as a verb, Otis, so bite me) at Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which though I've loved for years, often seems new to me when I return to it after an absence.

It's been a while sinced I listened to any Squarepusher or mu-Ziq. Tonight I was reflecting on that, and thinking about how much their ambient soundscape components (i.e. synth-pad-y type stuff behind the beats) turns me off, sometimes. Perhaps because they seem much more perfunctory than Aphex's (here, sans beats - i.e., the primary focus). Also, and this will sound stereotypical, but Aphex's are more naive. And more catchy. I will try to listen to some old IDM tomorrow, to try confirming or denying my thoughts.

There's a shuffling sound on the 10th track (?) to disc 1 that always has the power to surprise me, early in the morning or late at night, when I'm in the intermediate stages of sleep - I begin to believe there's something scuttling around my room.

November 18, 2000

2:45 AM
Maybe that should be "interminability of memories."

1:10 AM
And speaking of howls, the one that opens Soundgarden's "New Damage" on Badmotorfinger has got to be one of the coolest, ever. This is, in part, why I've not been interested in Chris Cornell's post-Soundgarden attempt to stake out singer-songwriter type territory. Because, dude - that howl. Why give up a thing like that?

12:49 AM
So, today I was in the mood for some "classics." So I bought Abbey Road and Exile on Main Street. The former, so far, has just continued to reinforce what I should know better by now: that as the Beatles tried more and more to be a "rock band," rather than the pop group that they were, they got progressively boringer (and screw your dictionary, Otis). It's got some nice parts, but memories of the interminability of listening to classic rock radio throughout my teens are not something I need. I'm sure it'll grow on me more, but that doesn't mean all that much.

The foregoing makes it perhaps a little surprising that I like Exile so much. I've avoided getting any Stones for quite some time, just because I didn't think it would be worth it. I used to listen to the Black Crowes, who are often written of as a Stones and Small Faces ripoff, quite a bit. So when I tired of them, it only seemed natural to me that the Stones were to be avoided; for this, and for the awful mess they've made of their critical reputation since, oh, the mid-70s.

But, as always, I'm a sucker for an Album, yes, with a capital "a". That and my perverse need to become acquainted with the historical aspects of music (don't get me wrong - I listen to what I like, not what I think I should listen to - but I also want to hear as much of what's out there, and what came before, as I can) were already leaning me toward picking up Exile someday. But seeing it described somewhere as "weary" was enough for me, because if anything, I'm a sucker for music described as "weary."

And what do you know, it is. Also raunchy, sleazy, bluesy (in spades), murky, muddled, loud, hazy, any number of adjectives that journalists love to trot out when talking about Good Old Fashioned Rock and Roll Values. Right away, this makes me think of Exile, conceptually, with Sly's There's a Riot Goin' On. And while I have enjoyed that record since Fred was kind enough to send it to me, the Stones record feels more immediate, just because I'm so steeped in the blues, and rock. That's probably a terrible way to put it - it's the kind of thing you'd read in liner notes describing a big dork who needs the cred (actually, it may be in the Leon Redbone liner notes below, but he at least sounds authentic, so I should leave him alone, since that's all that matters). And to make matters worse, I am obviously a big dork, from an ordinary midwest upbringing, with little contact with the blues and rock that could be described as "steeping." Still. The music I first took to, when I was old enough to care, was rock, and all through my teens I played and learned about the blues through jazz - these are the styles of music that feel most familiar to me.

A lot of the received view of this album seems pretty dead-on, too - the stuff about Listening To It As An Album, etc. etc. I don't think I've ever heard any of these songs on the radio - maybe I've heard a couple bits of it here and there, but those might just be ripped-off blues I'm hearing. This makes sense; the record is too bleary and lo-fi (though we're not talking Guided By Voices here) to fit in on Classic Rock FM playlists. Many of the songs don't seem all that distinctive, compared to the others. But taken as a whole they make for something much more engaging.

As for the misogyny: well, for much of it I can't tell what the hell Jagger is saying, so, oh well. I'm sure he's a very naughty boy. It's the anguished howl that's important here, often.

I still don't drink, but if I do someday I've really got to get roaring drunk and listen to this album.

And now, of course, I'm eyeing Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville.

November 17, 2000

11:22 PM
I have a new image already! Jon suggested I do this every month, but this one is too good to wait.

Here're the front and back of the Leon Redbone CD my parents brought me today, during their visit to Iowa.

Actually, they bought 3 Leon Redbone CDs, which I think qualifies as the most music my dad has bought since, well, ever maybe. He's keeping two of them, and they let me take my pick. ;)

The liner notes read:

There has always been an air of mystery surrounding the man who goes by the name of Leon Redbone. Asked to relate his personal history, he once asserted that he was born to Paganini and Jenny Lind in Bombay, India during a monsoon. When friends and wellwishers want to shake hands, Mr. Redbone, more often than not, will respond with a card that reads "How Do You Do?" His checkered vest, ascot and pith helmet recall a vintage Victorian Englishman. His moustache evokes Groucho Marx.

But there is nothing mysterious about the enduring appeal of Leon Redbone's music, as evidenced on his 1975 debut album, On The Track. "The spirits of Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Jimmie Rodgers and Bing Crosby hover near at hand," observed one critic, while another called him "an eccentric loner and one of the few humorists in pop."

Produced by Joel Dorn, who also doubles on tuba, and arranged by Leon Redbone, On The Track features an extraordinary range of eclectic American music, from the Irving Berlin perennials "My Walking Stick" and "Marie" to Jimmie Rodgers' "Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)" to Redbone's trademark rendition of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin' (I'm Savin' My Love For You)."

What little is known of the man called Redbone begins in the early '70s, when his distinctive vocal style and multi-instrumental prowess made him one of the most popular performers on the Toronto club scene. Artists such as Bob Dylan began making mention of this original new talent and he was subsequently tapped for a series of appearances on Saturday Night Live, where his dark, rich voice, ever-changing stage props and intriguing persona won him a huge following. In 1975 he was signed to a recording contract and began work on his debut album.

Comprising eleven cuts, including the traditionals "Haunted House" and "Polly Wolly Doodle," On The Track features artwork from veteran Warner Bros. cartoonist Chuck Jones and guest performances from such artists as Joe Venuti and Don McLean. Redbone himself is heard on vocals, guitar, harmonica and "throat tromnet."

If this doesn't sound so great, well, it's better than it sounds. It's also vaguely reminiscent in attitude of Tom Waits, though my dad just wanted to hear more Leon Redbone when I played Rain Dogs for him.

12:22 PM
Oh man, if you could see the faces I am making right now, listening to Aphex Twin's Come to Daddy EP.

They are really quite good.

2:14 AM
From the notes to the Borodin Quartet's complete Shostakovich string quartets, on 15 in E-flat minor:

The Fifteenth String Quartet is a sequence of seven Adagio movements, each following its predecessor without a break. As such, the work as a whole might almost be described as an apotheosis of the Adagio. In the wake of Tchaikovsky, Adagio was not simply a tempo marking in Russian music but a mode of musical thinking, implying an act of remembrance.


The Fifteenth String Quartet contains only two quotations from other works: Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor op. 132 in the second movement and Bach's Chaconne in the third.

Aside from these some of it gets kind of thick. Classical music writing seems to have picked up an unhealthy dose of metaphysics, or rather, continually accrued it over time.

2:08 AM
Will there ever be a remaster/reissue of Dylan's Blonde on Blonde? Is one necessary? Many contemporaneous albums, also on Columbia, have benefitted from remasters. Jazz albums, but, you know...

Speaking of which, I found this list of the top 50 albums made in Nashville. It's an interesting list, for many reasons. For some reason - nothing specific I can put my finger on - a lot of the terms of appreciation sound a lot like what I read in the rap press.

12:14 AM
I must've listened to "Norwegian Wood" like 10 times today, since I listened to it a couple few times while walking around and about, and later I listened to Rubber Soul four or five times.

On my way into the Union I actually wanted to grin and laugh out loud, which grinning and laughing I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to supress. But then, later at night, I just wanted to bawl and take a nap.

If I were so inclined, I could take this as a sign that meanings don't stick to things like songs, and that they can be interpreted freely by their listeners. But I'm not so inclined. Instead, I take it as confirmation that some songs are able to support a wider range of interpretations and reactions than others.

It's hard for me to maintain this, though, because I know how deceptively easy it is to respond in different ways to the same piece of music.

It depends on the music (sure, "Flamenco Sketches" and "Saeta" are sadder than some others), but for the most part lots of Miles doesn't ever make me feel "sad" emotions. I don't feel sad listening to Bitches Brew, or indeed, lots of his 60s music.

Hmm. Notice the language, "make" me feel.

Anyway - perhaps something like this is involved: there are two pretty strong ways we can respond to a piece of music we already know. One is a kind of pleasure at simply hearing the music again, enjoying it in whatever way it is that we enjoy it (note that this need not mean the music "makes us happy" in the same way that a sad song "makes us sad"). The other is a more "natural" reaction (this is a terrible way to put it, because I don't think it's natural, or any of that business) - i.e., sadness for sad music, happiness for happy music. Really, I'm not happy with this way of putting it all. But I hope you understand what division I mean.

That's because I want to say that there's some interference between the two: the being art-happy mixes together with the being music-sad, as it were. And there's give and take, so it's not as if one always happens, or both, or in the same proportions. Nothing at all that simple.

And there's more: perhaps this is not all that uncommon, but just more perceptible with strongly emotional music. I couldn't really tell you what emotions I have when I listen to Bitches Brew. Or Bach's "Musical Offering." Or a Tortoise song. They're subjective states that have less currency in our language, and so I find myself hard-put to explain them. Saying a Beatles song makes me "sad" may in actuality be no more informative, but if I say that, people will at least think they know what I mean.

November 16, 2000

8:21 PM
It really seems like the big intake of breath on the Beatles' "Girl" should have only happened once in the song. Repeated, it's trite.

8:20 PM
Someone I don't know, one Genie Baker, said on

Changes 2 and Mingus are the two Mingus cd's I find myself playing the most, even though I wouldn't suggest they're his best. Changes 2 provoked one of my best-remembered quotes from an old boyfriend, who stormed into my living room and turned off the stereo, fuming "Mingus is NOT Sunday morning music." Who knew?

Heh. 1:40 PM
I think, today, I will hear "Drive My Car."

1:38 PM
I keep forgetting to find out more about
Carl Stalling. I mean, Looney Toons music on CD - how cool is that?

3:45 AM
Old tdr readers may be interested in this.

12:12 AM
I ran across a scanner, and I just happen to have recently found a picture worth scanning: from the liner notes to The Clown, bassist Charles Mingus striving mightily.

November 15, 2000

10:30 PM
There's a difference between one live album (Nirvana) and four point six million fucking pieces of crap (Sublime).

That is all.

8:16 PM
I swear I hear several hints of dub on ATLiens.

8:15 PM
First verdict on my first opera, Debussy's Pelleas et Mellisande - acts I and II, at least: eh.

This opera is noted for being surprisingly un-operatic, if I'm to understand what I've read correctly. Clearly I and they have differing notions of "un".

2:10 AM
Bedtime listening for more than two weeks now has been either the new Godspeed, or (mostly) Miles' In a Silent Way. The former is somewhat surprising, as it does a bit of the soft-loud thing, and that tends to put the kibosh on me and music post-bed. But the loud part isn't all that loud, so I only hear it once or twice before falling asleep anyway, in general.

I've fallen asleep to the Miles for a number of years now, but what interests me at this point is that the music's become much more lively for me in the past couple of years, and that eventually this might mean that it's too exciting to sleep to. I'm paralleling this to my experience with Kind of Blue, one of my early sleeptime favorites during high school. There, even the gentle tempos of the faster tunes like "All Blues" were too rollicking for me, at least at bedtime; I couldn't listen to anything that was too "beat" heavy. So I would program in "Blue in Green" and "Flamenco Sketches" to repeat, and hope that my minor insomnia wouldn't lead me to go crazy from hearing the two songs repeated ad nauseum (not that this would have happened, probably; my friends and I once listened to Nirvana's "Lithium" throughout an entire night, while we were still awake, at that). As I grew older, something changed, and I was OK with music whose rhythms were a little more noticeable, so I was content to play the album through. However, sometime after I bought the reissue, with great new sound, the music started taking on far too many active qualities for me. The Coltrane solos, in particular. So now, I listen to it sometimes for sleep, but not too often anymore - I have to be appropriately tired.

The reason this is curious to me is that In a Silent Way, despite sounding more and more lively to me in recent time, still seems plenty fine for sleep music. What's more, the rhythms are much, much faster than I'm used to for sleep music, so it seems my noticing the music's liveliness would somehow carry over to the music. The rhythms are fairly metronomic, though - given what Tony Williams sounded like on the six or so albums before this, it's as if they brought in a drum machine to play on this record, for Miles' interest in rock and motown rhythms. In that sense, they're very lulling.

I await eagerly the Silent Way reissue, which Columbia has been delaying for a while. But supposedly it will be done a la the Bitches Brew reissue, with a fancy boxed set with extra material, that from which the released version of the music was edited down. I may have a much different reaction to the reissue, given my history with Miles reissues.

Brandon has a nice bit of trainspotting:

Weird, weird, weird coincidence: the sample of the woman singing at the beginning of "oh! how the dogs stack up" from Mogwai's Come On Die Young is taken from a song used as an example of Native American music in my music cultures class. It is, in fact, a Zuni lullaby, in free meter using only two pitches. An interesting choice for a sample; I'd never noticed it before but when I was listening to the album last night it caught my ear immediately.

1:42 AM
Re "smoking good / sloppy head on highways" - part of the oddness is, I'm associating the atmosphere of the song, and a few of the phrases I pick up (including the title, repeated after every rapper's verse, whereas the chix chorus sings about burdens and yesterdays and stuff), with something that's older, in my mind, than the aforementioned pot smoking and oral sex.

On the other hand, the first vocal on the track gets pretty biblical. So maybe the "older" is meant more metaphorically. Fucking metaphors. There are reasons I left my English major, you know.

1:41 AM
ATLiens lyrics

1:33 AM
I'm pretty sure the bassline to Outkast's "Decatur Psalm" really has nothing to do with the same Eagles song (? I think - I can't remember what the song is called, so I can't verify this) that the Beasties' "High Plains Drifter" lifts from. But damn, it sounds like it, and it's still weird.

12:44 AM
I find it kind of odd hearing this couplet

isn't it lovely smoking good
and sloppy head on highways

in the middle of Outkast's "13th Floor / Growing Old," because of the main theme of the song. Which I am conveniently not going to state right here, so I don't get it wrong. I'm working on it, though. :)

November 14, 2000

11:50 PM
I hate to be absolutist, but I'm sorry to report that
Kempa is just plain wrong.

P.P.S. Pinkerton is not that great, people. Cut it out.

6:55 PM
George wrote in to point out that the material for the new Godspeed album is 2-3 years old, which sort of explains the not-earthshattering thing I mentioned below. This probably came up in Splendid's Godspeed interview, which I read, but apparently didn't read closely enough. :)

6:37 PM
A programming note, prompted by something Maura wrote. I doubt it was directed at me, but I am aware that I often jot half-thoughts and tentative ideas here, and also often append them with "more later" or some other phrase, suggesting that I plan to return to the thoughts. So this presents me with an opportunity to get down some things I've been turning over in my mind.

One reason I'm sensitive to this is that I'm also aware that many of these go undeveloped, or at least, they aren't developed intentionally, though I sometimes get lucky and start thinking about a topic again completely of my own accord. Sometimes I do go back through my own blog and see if there were things I was thinking about, which were left "unfinished" (this is where you laugh); but usually I find the present more pressing.

The main reason, though, is that I am increasingly concerned with the idea that what I'm doing here is extremely well-suited to what I'm writing about - being a listener. I think of josh blog as kind of a lab notebook; I think of it as plenty of other kinds of things, many of which don't sound so cold and scientific, but "lab notebook" works well. Or "field notebook," perhaps, because there's no control here. More and more, I'm dissatisfied with most music writing, because it leaves out a lot of what goes on when people listen. It's too closed off, too tied to making points and meeting the external standards of the essay or review form, like thesis-justification, or claims to objective quality. Trivial observations, which constitute, to me, an important part of the whole experience, are slighted. Etc.

Along those lines, I think of notes to myself like "more on this later, maybe," as just that - notes to myself. Reminders that I'm interested in going back to think about some things. These need not be considered as post-its or bookmarks I slip into my own notes, to be taken out later; this is the final product, here. Also, they're reminders to my readers, who are basically reading over my shoulder. Often I write as if directing my words at a specific audience, but unless it is a specific person or group of people that I know will see it (and this does happen), I tend to do this just a a way of structuring my writing. If this were all solely for my own benefit, I wouldn't always strive for what little clarity I do, just because I can understand myself pretty well. As reminders for my readers, notes like this can (but rarely do) play a more active role: namely, if there's something I write here that I don't come back to, my readers can mail me and bug me about it - I like that kind of thing.

My thoughts on this matter aren't all that focused, because it's something I'm thinking about constantly, and still unsure about. But I think I've got one part right, at least, and that's the "form" of what goes on here.

Blah, blah, blah.

1:55 AM

1:18 AM
DJ Martian was wondering what I thought of Uncle Fester's albums list. Well...

I've barely even heard a small portion of the albums on Fester's list. How do some people keep up with this fast-paced listening? I've acquired more new music this fall, than any time thus far in my life - and I'm finding myself overwhelmed, at times, by the sheer volume of what I have to hear. Much of what I've gotten is incredibly dense, nuanced, complex, or otherwise worthy of time spent listening closely. How, then, can I compare so many of these new things to one another? I know, roughly, which ones I enjoy more, or which move me more. But this seems to be a very different thing from such an enormous list with ratings and rankings. I can't even rank CDs I've owned for years, down past the first 10 or so - how does Fester (or anyone else for that matter) do it for so many more?

Some of the albums haven't even been released yet!

That said, here are some glancing comments on a few of the list entries.

Radiohead still have not earned a spot in my personal year-end list, as there are things I've purchased this year, which were released in previous years, which I was more interested in. This is my new standard for year-end lists, one that I plan to employ in December as I think about my own list: anything new to me during the year counts, and new things have to compete with old things. The Radiohead, while interesting, has just not done much for me. I've still not quite put my finger on why; it seems it should be just my kind of album, as Fred noted with the kind of wit he characteristically directs at my rarefied tastes.

On the other hand, the new Godspeed has made an impression on me. It's true, not much has changed between their first and this album, but all that means is that the album isn't so immediately arresting. Emotionally, it's more delicate, and it covers what seems to be broader and more positive territory. At first, the drumming (far higher in the mix than on the first album) seemed overly obtrusive to me, but now it begins to make sense. Tom had described the music as "poppy," whatever that means with respect to Godspeed. Well, perhaps it means something: and I think it comes through in part due to the drum parts. Somehow - don't ask how just yet.

The new Outkast may or may not show up on my year-end list. Maybe, because of the role it's playing in my tentative exploration of hip-hop. Maybe not, because at heart I'm still thinking in terms of albums, and there are enough parts that I'm not sold on, to make me think twice about committing to the album as a whole. Music like this, though, is definitely driving me to consider songs separately this year - and Outkast will have at least a couple there. Their second album, ATLiens, may make my album list, though.

The live Built to Spill is nice but it is just a guitar-rock album - nothing earth-shattering. I think this is a case, for me, of preferring the new over the old; there is little new here. That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable to listen to.

I still have yet to be affected by the newest Dirty Three, and rather than force it I go back only intermittently (read: every month or so), since their previous two are among my favorite albums, ever. Same, mostly, goes for the new Sonic Youth, except I don't like any specific recording of theirs as much.

I could go on - because this list is SO DAMN LONG - but I'm getting tired now. Time for bed.

All this talk of Fester reminds me that I would love to see the original "Addams Family" again. Ah, childhood.

November 13, 2000

11:23 PM
Remember the alphabet thing I started some time ago? Yeah, I thought so. Well, it was tough paying attention enough to find a "B" to continue with. So perhaps I'll go out of order.

Autechre, "UnderBOAC", LP5

I've not yet heard any early Einsturzende Neubauten ("Crumbling New Buildings," roughly?), which seems to be the most obvious candidate for another instance of what I'm about to mention. But I doubt they come close. Tonight, while listening to "UnderBOAC," I had the peculiar sensation of a building converging on me. The clatters, skitters, and bangs bore an uncanny resemblance to industrial-strength building materials, giving way to the building's inborn urge to implode.

8:15 PM
Aaron passes along notice of
new MP3s from Matador, including one from the upcoming Yo La Tengo EP.

November 12, 2000

4:29 PM
Jon speaks true words about Mingus' Black Saint album:

Who is this Stanley Crouch, that he can single-handedly keep Wynton Marsalis, a man so obviously devoid of any compositional originality that he gleefully steals from a dead jazz great, fed and clothed?

2:16 PM
Art Ensemble of Chicago bio.

2:15 AM
Whee, I came into some money from some editing and translation work, so I treated myself while at the Exclusive Company in Madison, acquiring...

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette - Whisper Not
Sonny Rollins - Sonny Rollins and the Big Brass
Sun Ra - Heliocentric Worlds Vol. 2
The Art Ensemble of Chicago - Urban Bushmen
Outkast - ATLiens
Claude Debussy - Pelleas et Mellisande

And, as Jon has aptly asked: "since when were you into opera?" Yes, the last is an opera, but it's my first. We're going to see how that all works out.

2:12 AM
The Tangents crew on the new Sea and Cake.

1:52 AM
Thoughts from Tim on dub's relation to other music.

November 10, 2000

4:26 PM
In a surprise last-moment coup Bob Dylan ca. Blonde on Blonde has ousted Getz and Gilberto from their spot in my CD wallet. Commentators are stunned.

4:05 PM
So, I'm going away during the weekend for nerd bowl again. Not that this will constitute any significant interruption in the high level of service you've come to expect from Josh Blog.

Travel music (to comment on later, maybe, since I recently complained about Fred posting a list sans comments to the Star Chamber) this time around:

Outkast - Stankonia
Shellac - 1000 Hurts
Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One
Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (disc 2, I think)
Claude Debussy - Complete Chamber Music of (disc 2, including the op. 10 string quartet)
Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto with Astrud Gilberto and Antontio Carlos Jobim - Getz/Gilberto
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
Sonic Youth - A Thousand Leaves
Lamb - Fear of Fours
Thelonious Monk - Straight, No Chaser
Yo La Tengo - And then nothing turned itself inside-out

Some new stuff and old favorites. I always find it hard to pick music for car travel, because usually it's music I need to play loud to hear it over the highway noise on my headphones. But I don't want so monochrome a selection.

2:23 PM
I don't know why I haven't linked to it before, but I just thought I'd let you know that I've added
Ally's blog, "Bitchcakes", to the ol sidebar. Why bother to tell you here? Because I find it interesting that I like reading Ally more than Fred. Heh.

2:00 AM
I wasn't looking for this, but rather "Pelleas et Mellisande." It irks me, though, so: the problem with this is that you apparently have to be a musical tabula rasa, and somehow think that different music consists of basically a bunch of different "moods" to be switched on and switched off, so that you can just put one on, and suddenly be happy, or calm, or sad, etc. Real people, whose responses to music are far more complex than this, are apparently shit out of luck.

1:55 AM

1:22 AM
Claude Debussy and Impressionism

November 9, 2000

8:01 PM
Bass-heavy? Bass clarinet? Bass marimba?
Exactly the kind of thing to make me even more interested. This was next on my Sun Ra want list, but it moves to the top of everything now.

November 8, 2000

11:51 PM
Well, that makes sense... the amazing "Twice the First Time" by Saul Williams, on the remix/etc. disc of the new Ninja Tune comp. Xen Cuts, is apparently a remix of some spoken word
Williams did, as he is a spoken word artist and slam poet. He was the lead in the recent Slam film.

"A lot of hip-hop artists are fucking geniuses but would never be recognized by mainstream society because they are young, black, urban, and are a bit too tense for them," says Williams.

5:20 PM
The new Godspeed seems shorter than the first album, despite being longer. Interesting.

And the "Murray Ostril" bit about Coney Island is quite sad, wistful.

2.38 PM
A Loafer's Discourse. Not at all music-related, but we do like Tom so.

11:27 AM
Two part interview with Ashley Kahn about his new book on the making of Kind of Blue.

November 7, 2000

1:12 PM
Note to self: descriptions of "complex" forms (classical, progressive rock) seem to be very often done in the same language as that of less "complex" music (non-progressive rock, pop music) - almost ignoring the structural complexity which is supposed to be these genres' fortes. Could be that this mirrors the actual fact of listening to much of this music: that it's not all so complex as it's made out to be, but rather that there's a lot of initial work to be done, by those new to the genre, etc. Yet all the while, the complexity is still touted as a virtue, when it ceases to be the same kind of barrier to those who already enjoy the genre broadly.

Prog rock fans are perhaps more prone to this than classical ones.

1:03 PM
Nick Mirov on the
Pitchfork Mail page:

A brief word of advice, though, to aspiring music reviewers such as yourself: arrogant disrespect towards people whose opinions diverge from your own is not a particularly attractive trait in a critic. Most publications tend to frown on that sort of thing. Just something to keep in mind.

(cough cough) Brent D (cough)

12:11 AM
New listening: settings of Russian church music by Rachmaninov, and the Ninja Tune 10-year anniversary retrospective, Xen Cuts.

I am finding the church music - all a capella, mixed choirs - beautiful and powerful. Thankfully there is very little operaesque vocalization, which makes the music easier for me to hear with an open mind. R.'s setting of the Vespers is, according to the liner notes, fairly traditional and sufficiently old-sounding. Sounds fine to me, too. His setting of the Liturgy of St. John Crysostom is more modern, enough so that after its initial performances, it was barred use in Orthodox church services. As far as I can tell so far, this is just because of the brief outbursts of operatic technique, and the more modern harmonic underpinning (the Vespers sound a lot more like medieval plainchant, whence Rachmaninov got his souces). And maybe it gets a little more excitable.

Unfortunately, no Russian text was provided with the music. One CD even translates the English-translated titles of the sections into German, while there's still almost no Russian to be found in the notes. Doh. I can pick out the odd word here or there, usually during the few solos, and during some more clear group passages. For the most part, the words are too drawn-out to be clear, except when they sound like the words in English religious music I'm used to hearing ("alleluia", "amen", e.g.). So at the very least, every once in a while I hear "my soul" or "God" or "death, death, DEATH". Better than nothing. I'm still on the lookout, after a brief and fruitless search, for the Russian texts to the music. Some of the parts are setting of Orthodox psalms and the like, but not all - and Rachmaninov wrote some of the lyrics himself.

The Ninja Tune box is going more slowly. I wasn't expecting much out of it, so that's OK - it was nicely priced as a single disc, for three discs worth of material: one more hip-hop oriented, one "jazzier" (ugh, I hate that word), and one of remixes. I was hoping, though, that as a compilation spanning 10 years of a critically acclaimed label, it would have a few more highs. I've found a few, the first time through: Herbaliser's "8pt Agenda" is alright as a backing track, but has an excellent rap from Latryx. "Your Revolution" from DJ Vadim and Sarah Jones is nice. The Amon Tobin tracks are decent but not his best, and the Clifford Gilberto stuff is at least unexpected (I think I was anticipating more drum-n-bass to his music, but it sounds a lot like cut-up 70s funk). DJ Food's "The Ageing Young Rebel" features Ken Nordine with spoken word, and it's very nice.

A lot of the music, though, just seems to follow the same general pattern: set up a basic beat, with a bassline or something or other to give it a bit of melody (but not too interesting!), and then let run for five minutes. I hate to make this kind of criticism, too, because it sounds just like any number of criticisms people could (and do) make about similar music, that I like.

So, I'm still giving this one time. Mostly because I hold out hope that Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead are not the end-all, be-all of "downtempo" or "trip-hop." Dammit, I know there's more good music in the genre than that.

Along similar lines: DJ Vadim's U.S.S.R. Repertoire opens up with a very obvious Public Enemy sample, and then proceeds to be BORING AS FUCK for the next ten to fifteen minutes. That shouldn't be allowed.

November 6, 2000

10:49 PM
I question the assertion at the beginning that one must know something about the history of and theory behind the music in order to enjoy it, but nevertheless,
this guide to medieval music looks interesting.

7:45 PM
Yeah! Mike is back. Well, almost.

November 5, 2000

9:58 PM
John Cage stories from Indeterminacy.

5:37 PM
Hmm, I wonder if the "mother's little helper" lines in S-K's "Little Babies" are a reference to the Stones song.

5:35 PM
"In my opinion, the trombone is the true head of the family of wind instruments, which I have named the 'epic' one...Directed by the will of the master, the trombones can chant like a choir of priests, threaten, utter gloomy sighs, a mournful lament, or a bright hymn of glory; they can break forth into awe-inspiring cries and awaken the dead or doom the living with their fearful voices."

- Hector Berlioz, in his Treatise on Instrumentation (1843)

3:22 PM
Shellac interview which I found my way to through Us vs Them

1:27 AM
Note to self: Miles in the Sky - first track. Comp. to In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Psychedelia, rock connection. Cf. Shorter's solo, ends with about four minutes left, for a quieter Herbie solo, then the outro.

November 4, 2000

8:43 PM

8:35 PM

8:33 PM
Good S-K article.

1:08 AM
Hey, I can play this game. But I feel I must point out that Tom did have a somewhat script-worthy day. What the hell did you do today, Scarth? Rode the bus and played pool. Aha, I see. :)

What I've listened to in the past day:

  1. a bit of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians upon waking up extra early (before 8 is early for me) in order to get in a shower before they shut off my building's water for maintenance
  2. Digable Planets, Reachin': A New Refutation of Time and Space on the way into my office and then all the way through while I scrambled to finish my math homework before 11. Note: I did not finish. But I got an extension.
  3. Shellac, "Prayer to God" for the two minutes from class to class. "To the one true god above, here is my prayer" ... "There are two people here... and I want you to kill them." "Her, she can go quietly... with a blow to the neck..." "Him... just fucking kill him" "Fucking kill him" etc. etc. I am, like, so self-righteous. And I forgive Steve Albini. Clearly the man is a genius, even if he is a big asshole.
  4. Lamb, various parts of Fear of Fours while walking about doing various things.
  5. Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor, while doing various computer-related things before philosophy club. Twice through. Clearly these women are geniuses.
  6. The Sea and Cake, The Fawn, just long enough to go to the CD store, to buy more Sleater-Kinney.
  7. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out. About, uh, 6 times through so far? I should go to bed, I'm spending my day reading trivia questions to dorky high school students all tomorrow. But, viz. 5., these women are geniuses. Can't stop.

Though... even when I have a script-worthy day, I don't tend to take advantage of it. For what it's worth.

12:20 AM
One of the downsides to the way I buy CDs is that I sometimes get things I don't like. Well, often, compared to most people. But I'm usually content to let things lie a bit, and come back to them later. So a great upside is that, when I suddenly take a liking to a CD I formerly wasn't that impressed by, it's like a have a brand new CD that I didn't just shell out fifteen bucks for (yeah, I did, but sometime in the past - so it feels free, or found).

Like, say... Sleater-Kinney's Call the Doctor, which I bought in the face of tremendous hype a few years back (maybe it was even near the time of release?), when looking for some ROCK to kick my ass. I liked "Call the Doctor" and "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone," but I wasn't completely smitten. For various reasons.

Thankfully, working at KURE gave me the chance to hear a lot of All Hands on the Bad One this spring, and I was hooked soon after buying it. Strangely, though, when I went back to Call the Doctor it still didn't do much for me. Oh well, one great record is good enough, eh?

But today... today, I threw on Doctor again, and it was shocking, how much I took to it. So I bought Dig Me Out too, and it kicks fucking ass. More and more, I'm starting to understand why Greil Marcus falls all over himself praising the band. Not because he's right about his theories (silly Greil with his theories), but because, well, it's a natural response for a guy like him (great? needs a theory!) when he GETS HIS FUCKING ASS KICKED.

I know I've said something like this before, like last time I was waxing ecstatic about S-K, but, well, I just got my fucking ass kicked too.

And growing up, I never really had big crushes on any celebrities or anything like that. Maybe they're more common for girls than boys (that seems to be the stereotype, at least), but even boys have them. So I find it humorous that I've got a slight, slight crush on Corin Tucker, despite all the, uh, sexism issues possibly involved. But: after reading the band's Q & A page, all answered by the witty (she's a great straight man, or maybe straight woman, but either way that implies terrible puns I don't mean) and intelligent (and planning graduate work in linguistics!) Carrie Brownstein, maybe I'll be transferring my crush.

Comparing this album to its immediate predecessor, it's very noticeable, the effect Janet Weiss had on the band. Call the Doctor sounds much more... churning. Weiss uses the toms much more, and she just seems more authoritative, the upshot being that Tucker and Brownstein's guitars seem more grounded. It allows for more interweaving, maybe. I'll have to think about it.

November 2, 2000

1:06 PM
"oh, shit, there's a horse in the hospital!"
- Dr. Octagon

11:57 AM
I'd been waiting to see what
he thought of Kid A. The usual Glenn McDonald stuff, punctuated by a high moment: "I don't know what this means." But then he goes on to toss his theories around again. At least it helps me be more certain about my own response to the album: "I don't know what this means." But unlike apparently countless reviewers, this doesn't bother me. I've got lots of music that I don't understand. I just keep listening to it, to see what happens, and I'm OK with that.

2:15 AM
So, yes, the new Outkast. Stankonia. I'm still not sure what kinds of overall impressions or comments I have to offer, but know this: I am enjoying myself.

Probably like many people, the standout track for me is "B.O.B." I've been playing it nonstop, almost everywhere I go. Aside from the brief few seconds at the beginning, the track is almost unrelenting. And though I'd heard it before a few times, hearing it on the actual CD, I was still a little surprised. We get a couple seconds of synth twiddling, and then someone (Dre?) counting down "1-2-3-yea-uh" before the enormous beat hits. It's funny, that intro: since I know what's coming now, the intro automatically sets me up for the upcoming tempo and energy. There are sort of cues in the synth intro, as it's in tempo, but without knowledge of what comes later, it can just sound sort of meandering and idyllic. So when I listen I try to de-focus my mind for the first couple seconds, to see if I can regain my initial innocence, as it were.

And about that enormous beat... Fred's right, it is. But I get more of the impression of an enormous space, than just a thunderous beat (there are Spiritualized songs where the beats seem bigger, to me - they aren't so omnipresent, though). In a good way, though, with the volume to back it up, unlike an anemic Big Rock beat from the 80s, e.g.

"B.O.B." actually makes me more interested in hearing some early 90s hardcore (techno) than any actual straight electronic music of times since that I've ever heard. This, friends, is a major accomplishment.

Despite liking "B.O.B." so much, I do like other stuff too, just not as unreservedly. "Ms. Jackson" feels sincere. "?" and "Gasoline Dreams" offer more adrenaline like "B.O.B.", in different forms. Other stuff is at the very least generally catchy, often really great.

More to come later.

2:13 AM
"you speak of hardcore"
- Dre

November 1, 2000

4:51 PM
He's never sounded all that bad to me. Actually often he sounds like quite a dork. A dorky badass, if you will. Or a badass dork.

4:31 PM
Fugazi are so cool.

"Regarding Napster - I can't really say that I am completely up on the whole thing regarding the RIAA lawsuit but our position on music file sharing is pretty basic. We are totally cool with it. As long as no one is charging someone else for downloads of our stuff we are totally fine with people sharing files of our songs, even unreleased stuff and live tapes.

"We have always had an open camera, video and taping policy at our shows and as long as people are strictly sharing and trading, we are into it. We do have problems with people 'marketing' our stuff surreptiously and charging for it and we discourage that in the limited way we can, but to us Napster is like home taping - the idea that it kills music only makes sense if your bottom line is per-piece profit. If you are into having your music exposed to more people, (something mainstream radio would never do for us), Napster actually performs a service. Hope that makes sense. Thanks for the interest."

to October 2000
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