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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29 Nov '01 06:32:41 AM

I suppose "Directions" (as "Directions I" and "Directions II" in the Silent Way box) has been available for a while elsewhere - I probably even have some version of it on a pre-retirement live album, though that means it's radically different by then - but hearing the version(s) surrounding the Silent Way sessions is especially illuminating because a) it makes so much contextually: the music is somewhat in the Second Quintet mode, fast and crackly, but more comfortably using rock rhythms and other elements, without being extremely heavy or more groove-locked (if that makes any sense - it doesn't to me, though I know what I mean) like the later Bitches Brew material, and anything else where the funk started creeping in, and b) there is no (b).

The pre-edit versions of the Silent Way tracks have a strange quality to them. It's something like hearing a jazz group play another group's song, or even one of their own in a different way than previously done. But a lot of the parts edited out seem to me at the moment (not very familiar with the "new" (old) versions, still) to be a lot more ambiguous and peripatetic, while the other parts are generally ones that show up, verbatim, in the edited versions. So rather than the songs sounding like paraphrased or translated versions of other things, they're like dreams of them: dreams with long stretches of perfect clarity.

29 Nov '01 06:09:07 AM

Of course, even that has major problems: what happens when you get to two albums that you don't know how to compare? Having a giant round-robin tournament between all your favorite records only works if you can actually pick winners. If you can't, then even this model (which is supposed to take the trouble out of it since one album vs. one album is supposed to be an easier choice to make than any other one involved in making a list) fails. For instance, I put on In Utero today. Now, I love that record, but I don't listen to it that often now. I certainly have listened to it less in the past 3 years than Protection. If I weren't thinking this would make me choose the Massive Attack over the Nirvana. But since I love In Utero, I'm more careful to notice that it wasn't any particular dislike that caused me to listen less to it, and that if my reaction to it now is somehow less strong than to Protection, it feels like it has something to do with familiarity (in the recent sense, since I've definitely listened to In Utero more overall). Once that doubt creeps in, the skeptic in me takes over and I can't make the decision.

This is why the last time I made a big top-whatever list for myself, I could only really get 3 things on it. At the moment, for instance, I can guess that I would say I prefer The Curtain Hits the Cast, Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew, Emergency & I, and (now!) Change to most any other record I own. But that's because my reactions to those, my affinities for them, are so overwhelmingly strong that it seems self-evident (self-evidency, what a load of crap, don't let anyone sell you something with that kind of talk); it's automatic, I like them more. But then ask me to compare them to each other.

28 Nov '01 11:56:05 PM

I must not have listened to Second Edition more than even ten times all the way through since I bought it. The first time I thought it was annoying and relentlessly tiresome. Then it suddenly got better. I haven't listened to it in a long time, before today, and I never picked up much from listening to it the other times, I think, although I enjoyed it, but today it sounded especially great. Relentlessly interesting and catchy, like the bassline in "Poptones". ("Burbling"?) What changed?

28 Nov '01 08:49:57 AM

I always hate making ranked lists like Jess's, because I have so much trouble deciding after the first few, if I can even decide those. But I'm still very interested in trying them, just because it forces me to think differently about valuing things in ways that I suspect are wrong wrong wrong (no offense Jess, ha ha). But I think next time I do this (and I want to soon, because Jess has me thinking), I'll do it more "scientifically" so that I don't have to think as much about how to rank the entries, which usually makes me not rank them at all: I'll just get together a big list of albums, and do something so that I compare every single pair of them in combination, and and score them so that every time an album wins in a pair, it gets a point - and then score them by total points. Sure, it sounds like overkill, and it may not accurately represent what I think about them considered as a group, but I want to find out what happens when I do it. (Of course, to do it I'll write a computer program. The things I do for experimental aesthetics...)

28 Nov '01 08:36:05 AM

What he says.

28 Nov '01 08:34:55 AM

Saw: The Plan. At: 400 Bar, Mpls. Now: Happy.

Openers were two DC bands, Diastemata and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. The former are a two-person band, woman on guitar and vocals, guy on drums. And I wasn't sure but it seemed like the woman was playing something strung up with both bass and guitar strings, because at times it was nice and bassy. They played a kind of meandering alternate-tunings indie rock, sort of mathy, with vocals and lyrics that seemed to me to belong to less knotty music. The latter were four guys, a two-guitar band. Very high energy and very very loud; the singer (Ted, I think) said something about having put out a song on Lookout, so maybe they're on Lookout - too lazy to check. It would make a certain amount of sense given the way they sounded, though. But there was also an interesting soul (?) edge to lots of their songs, especially because of the singing, and the music often took turns into metal and noisy (but disciplined) improv sections. Ted Leo played (by himself) a nice cover of "Outdoor Miner" (earlier requested by the Plan's bassist from the audience, I think) when there was a technical problem with the other guy's guitar.

I'm pretty bad about remembering setlists, so now I don't even remember what the Plan opened with. "Back and Forth" was second, though. Oh, no, I do remember what was first - "Standing Still", which may be the third time I've heard them open with it. They were unable to guilt the Mpls crowd into dancing, for the most part.

Couple quibbles: as in the past, Travis has trouble controlling his voice in certain regions. That's too bad just because he sings a lot higher on record, and more carefully too, so sometimes live the vocals have trouble getting out until he really gets into it. Later on in the set he seemed warmed up, though, just like the last time I saw them (I don't recall any vocal problems the first time, but maybe I was just too stunned). Also, they keep mixing the sound funny. I'm probably just used to the way things sound coming out of my headphones, but the synths are usually too low at their shows, and Travis slightly too high (even when he's on point!). The guitars are a lot louder live, and noisier, which is fine, but it unbalances the sound a bit.

Some other songs they played: Gets Rich, Superpowers, Face of the Earth, City, Girl O'Clock, Ellen and Ben, What Do You Want Me To Say?, Other Side, Memory Machine, Timebomb, Ice of Boston, Onward Fat Girl, Gyroscope, and the first song of the encore that they usually do and extend but which I forget the name of and anyway it's off of ...Is Terrified.

The songs from Change were generally tighter than last time around, when I guess they were still testing them out. "The Other Side" lost some of its drum-and-bass flavor because Joe was playing something a lot more muscular (and, it sounded like, a lot more cymbals). I've been thinking that the drums on that track are turned down a lot on the record anyway, so that may have something to do with it. But it was still astounding, especially Eric's bass. I missed the multitracked harmony on "Timebomb" after the quiet part, but hey, what are you gonna do. P.O.P.! hits of the year (in the first encore song) included "Bootylicious", "Back That Azz Up", and uh something else that I forgot (compare to last year's "What A Girl Wants").

Hmm, no "Following Through". I guess I should've yelled out a request after all.

26 Nov '01 06:17:37 AM

Sheesh, I think "Do Fries Go With That Shake!?" is 20 minutes long.

I mean that in a good way.

26 Nov '01 06:06:34 AM

It's kind of a pain to find lyrics for "Uptown" because Prince sued a fanzine by the same name as part of his ligation kick, but then again I guess finding them doesn't help me because they leave vague what exactly the connection is supposed to be between the song and the section of Minneapolis, which is also where the album (Dirty Mind) was recorded. I was hoping for some more definite clue - as it currently stands, Uptown seems a little too safe-boho gentrified to exemplify the kind of open place the lyrics celebrate. But it's been twenty years. And despite the local connection, "Uptown" as a name has all kinds of other associations Prince may have been relying on anyway.

25 Nov '01 05:44:11 AM

Partial list of things I reckon I might include on a year-end list if I make one. (If it's not on here, maybe I just forgot I liked it.)

Mogwai, Rock Action. Avalanches, Since I Left You. Miles Davis, The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions. Jay-Z, The Blueprint. Bonny 'Prince' Billy, Ease On Down the Road. Radiohead, Amnesiac. Low, "Laser Beam". Dave Holland, Not for Nothin'. Spiritualized, just one song maybe. Burning Airlines, "The Surgeon's House". Thelonious Monk, Live at the Jazz Workshop. Shipping News, "Actual Blood". American Analog Set, "Two-Way Diamond I / II / Don't Wake Me (live)". Kardinal Offishall, "Maxine" and maybe some more. Roots Manuva, a song or two. Basement Jaxx, Rooty. Labradford, Fixed::Context.

See, this is why I hate year-end lists. Where is Kompakt Total 3 supposed to go? Or Beethoven's Op. 132?