josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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18 Aug '01 08:10:02 AM

I've been in the mood for horn sections lately, but I don't really have much music that fits what I want (not jazz - though the closest thing that would've pleased me right now, Monk live at Town Hall with his orchestra, I couldn't find anyway because it's in a box of books somewhere). What I picked instead on the spur of the moment was Milestones. Have just realized, after an extended section without Miles, that this variety of bebop seems to suit him the least well of all the styles he assayed. I suppose I thought that before, but hearing a passage without him this time through made me think, hey, this could be someone else's record. Compare the higher-tempo athleticism here to that on display in the second quintet's records - there it seems like Miles is playing more with his own voice in both slower and faster tempos. It's well known that early on he developed a voice on the trumpet which played up his strengths (especially his lyricism and dark tone), and avoided his weaknesses (fast and high technique). But maybe he pushed it a lot further than that - by the mid-60s he had reformed bebop (the whole style and structure of the songs, the way the bands played - rather than just his own voice) even more radically to suit his voice.

16 Aug '01 08:31:25 AM

Tonight I was listening to "Angels vs. Aliens" from Mogwai's early singles comp, Ten Rapid, and reading Gravity's Rainbow at the same time, when I came to this:

It's all gibberish to Slothrop - it will be months yet before he runs into a beer advertisement featuring the six beauties, and find himself rooting for a girl named Helen Riickert: a blonde with a Dutch surname who will remind him dimly of someone. . . .

The 'someone' is Katje, who Slothrop has a passionate affair with earlier in the book, during his house arrest in the Casion Hermann Goering. So 'months' later Slothrop will have forgotten about Katje - she'll be little more than a faint memory. This isn't really because the affair meant little to Slothrop, or because so much more happens in the future to make him forget her, I think - it's just that he 'dissipates' into the Zone later on in the book.

I normally find this sad, but hearing the faint, echoey guitars at the beginning of the Mogwai track made it seem a lot more poignant. A lot of the reviews of this comp remark, rightly so, on how distant the music sounds. I'd like to say it's 'obscured' by or 'shrouded' by very delicate guitar noise, but the sound is a lot more three-dimensional than that, and it's never obfuscatory. So it accomplishes the trick of sounding clear while also being noisy and far away. That extra distance intensified the feeling I had, from reading, of Slothrop's loss - one he won't even know the magnitude of once he's reminded of Katje.

16 Aug '01 08:16:20 AM

I dug out The Joshua Tree today as it occurred to me I hadn't heard it in years - and I never really listened to it much when I first got it, which was maybe sometime before tenth grade in high school. The first four songs were superb. After that I found myself wishing I was listening to Big Black again. The first thing that occurred to me, and that I can't shake, was that those initial songs are much straighter. That doesn't really make sense - I suppose it's something to do with the direct, solid rhythms that drive the songs, and that don't really let up over the courses of them.

But then again I've also heard those songs a million times on the radio. Do I really want to listen to the album enough to see if I start to like the rest of the songs better? No I think I do not.

13 Aug '01 08:06:17 AM

This one's for Scotland, man - for Scotland!

13 Aug '01 08:00:30 AM

Clive has a nice music weblog, somnolence, which you should check out if you have not already done so. I would put a link to it on my links page if I had one, but I don't (I'm not sure yet if I really want to remedy this: I used to have one but I didn't like having to decide whether to link people on it, for whatever reason).

13 Aug '01 07:45:01 AM

Listening to the Beta Band, "Around the Bend", I was suddenly struck of a memory of walking across central campus in Ames, a couple of years ago. Very hot day, grass brown and dying in the fall, beautiful sky. I was listening to "Mogwai Fear Satan" and striding with big steps, in a hurry (but not really) to cross campus for a class. Then I saw the sky and it combined with the music and it was the first time I ever remembered crying at all to music, even tearing up. I tried to write about it during class, but I couldn't get the words to come out right - I still can't. But it wasn't from the song being "sad" (I don't think that one is, even), or from the music overwhelming me in a direct sense. Right then, I felt sad because of how great, how beautiful, everything seemed at that moment. Sad because it made me just want to feel so much more, let go - and I felt like I couldn't do that.

I get this feeling a lot, but not usually that strongly. Hearing "Around the Bend" just now it seemed as if this sort of thing is at the heart of so many of the Beta Band's most climactic moments, like here, or in "Eclipsed". Or maybe I should say "climactic," because they might still sound pretty restrained to a lot of people - as if the band are too stoned or just too incompetent to really hit the big choruses. But listening I never feel that way at all - and maybe this is why.

13 Aug '01 07:23:32 AM

And I only have one other disc of Jobim stuff, which is totally schmaltzy compared to the Getz/Gilberto one, so sometimes I really wish Getz would just shut the fuck up. I mean, yes, he plays great and everything, blah blah blah, but he's way more cutting, and a lot louder, than everything else on the disc. At the moment I would much rather listen to the dude mumbling stuff in Portuguese.

Or just the rhythm section tinkling along for all eternity. This has got to be one of the best-sounding discs I own, in the class of live-sound-reproducing discs. The sound on most other jazz from this era is comparable, but because of the music they're playing the sound on this disc is a lot more distinct, and the quiet volume makes it seem finer (sort of in the sense of 'more delicate').

13 Aug '01 07:13:29 AM

The omnipresent acoustic guitar, playing the basic samba rhythm, on the Getz/Gilberto album, retains some sort of percussive properties but most of the time it's so quiet that it sounds quite unlike anything else I can ever remember hearing. I find myself ignoring everything else in the songs and simply focusing in on my left headphone, blissfully listening to the gentle rhythm over and over and over again...

13 Aug '01 06:35:45 AM

Sometime last week I told Ethan I was listening to a Soundgarden CD, and as is typical, he made fun of me for (still) liking any grunge. So later I thought I'd listen to Pearl Jam, specifically No Code. While I still listen to Nirvana frequently, and I've listened to a lot of Soundgarden in the past year, and Alice in Chains' Dirt a few times, I've sort of been avoiding my Pearl Jam CDs. I bought No Code during my freshman year, which was right before I started snobbishly disdaining mainstream rock music (or, to put it differently: disdaining my past). We even got rubber stamps with the album art design on them (see the picture three over and two up from the bottom left on the front cover art) because we bought it the morning it came out. At the time, I loved the album, and played it all the time. I also didn't see what the problem was everyone was having with it. (Well, I did see, but I didn't see why people had to be so stuck on hearing the band play the old music.)

But with time, I sort of drifted away from Pearl Jam. I stopped listening to their records. Not really out of any explicit decision to stop - it's just that, whenever it occurred to me that I hadn't listened to one in a long time, it also occurred to me that I didn't really feel like remedying the state of affairs. But the band released Yield just at the tail end of the time I felt like a fan, so I bought that too. It had some good songs on it, ones I that I liked and that affected me. But it all felt too conventional, too plain-old-rock, for me, for the kind of music I thought I wanted to listen to, so I sort of pushed myself (already drifting) further away. Once, looking for something to spend money on and hoping to feel some old feelings, I bought the live album that came after that. But I never listened to it much at all. So by the time the next album came out, I had drifted too far away.

By then, though, it wasn't completely a musical thing. I had since come to remember that I like the simple songs, too, the rock songs, and that the label they're on doesn't really mean much to me. I don't know what their new album sounds like - maybe I would like it. But I've got plenty of other things to hear right now, so I guess I just don't have time. There are other people doing the simple songs.

I regret this a little, partly because of the personal meaning the old records have for me. And I don't mean that like any sort of direct correspondence to real life: hearing "Indifference" come on in the car making a special moment with her, or stewing in my room with "Spin the Black Circle" on - normal teenaged life stuff, sure, but just in the general background, not any big moments.

No Code still sounded good to me. But does that mean I'm going to make more of an effort? I'm not sure.