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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4 Jan '02 08:35:04 AM

The Necks' Sex is a fascinating album - or song, or performance, or whatever, since it's only one forty six minute or so track. Piano, (acoustic) bass, drums, loosely barely classifiable as some kind of avant-garde jazz maybe. They set up three-note (using only two tones) bass ostinato, some basic and quiet ride cymbal accompaniment, and then some spare piano tinkles and maybe something high and bowed on the bass or played inside the piano (I'm not sure) less frequently. Changes come slowly. I think a big one comes about five minutes in, I don't know, I haven't been paying close enough attention. The first time I listened to this, I couldn't shake the feeling, for at least 15 minutes, that it all sounded preparatory - like the very drawn out introduction to a relaxed, casual song, or maybe even just the bulk of a long piece like Miles' "He Loved Him Madly" which, though it often seems to not consist of much locally, or seems like it's not going anywhere or hasn't yet for a long time - despite that it seems to make up a fairly unified piece. After that 15 minutes, the minimalism kicked in and "Sex" started to uh like freaking me out in that cool minimalist way: it just barely grated, you know, the kind of thing where maybe being so repetitive isn't the best idea, but then it slides back repeatedly to seeming like the greatest trance-inducing idea in the world.

Because the repeated rhythm is fast enough, at times when listening I can get sort of jittery, like I'm waiting for it to go somewhere but it doesn't. An almost identical thing happens to me sometimes when listening to Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. Sometimes this feeling is interesting in and of itself. Usually, though, I prefer to take it as a sign that I'm listening in the wrong mode, or at least in a mode I'd like to leave.

Interestingly enough (because this sort of thing is stereotypically background music), I get more jittery when I'm listening while working on something else, with the appropriate level of attention. (There's a higher level of attention where I don't pay it much mind, so no jitters.) This might serve as an injunction to lay about and be put into a trancelike state (hello Mogwai) rather than work and listen to this music simultaneously.

4 Jan '02 08:16:46 AM

I listened to a lot more of it than two songs today, but I have retained my habit of laying in bed and not wanting to hear anything else when the album is on.

4 Jan '02 07:58:38 AM

"Stephanie Says" comes a ways into The Royal Tenenbaums, and it felt warm and familiar to me, despite probably not having heard it that often. I guess it had to do with two things: listening a lot to the self-titled album and thus just having my reactions to it extend to their other songs, and just having a tender reaction to it because of that familiarity and recognition (whether direct or in this extended sense).

There was at least one place in the movie (two if I remember right) where Nico sang, too, and I didn't think they were Velvets tracks. So a similar thing happened, but maybe with the recognition playing more of a role - that is, me thinking that it was some solo Nico (even if it in fact wasn't) made hearing it in a movie feel more special, somehow. More personal, maybe. Though that's certainly an odd kind of 'personal' connection.

When "Ruby Tuesday" plays during the tent scene, I didn't have quite the same reaction. I knew it and had heard it before, sounded fine, etc., but that wasn't enough. I don't have enough of a personal connection with the music (through listening to it a lot, living with it), even if I'm counting 'personal connection' to be as extended a thing as 'it sounds a lot like the singer on a Velvets record that I don't listen to as much as the one that I listen to all the time'.

4 Jan '02 07:50:51 AM

I supppose I can clarify that a bit. First of all, I listen to the album in a maybe nonstandard way (though I bet there are others who do this too), since I have the version from the Peel Slowly and See box set. In that version, the album is preceded by a live version of "What Goes On". This has a couple of side effects for me. First, even though the next song, "Candy Says", is the beginning of the album proper, I don't think of it as such. The next song after that is the studio version of "What Goes On", so I somehow associate that track (the third on the CD) with "the beginning of the album," maybe because it's the first song again, only the studio version. This means that I think of "Candy Says" as some kind of bonus track, a demo or single or something stuck in before the album starts. None of this is deliberate, by the way, and it's not as if I've never known or been able to know the proper tracklisting and source of the tracks. I'm just stopping to think about what it seems to me I actually do when I put the CD on.

More importantly, because of that first live track, I always start the disc there and think of it as being part of the album that follows. I think this makes me less concerned about wanting to stop so earlier. Also, after the album there are a number of other live and bonus tracks, which I've never yet paid much attention to and never care to hear. So, stopping early for me sort of involves treating the songs I cut off as part of all that other junk at the end that I'm avoiding.

Why stop at "I'm Set Free" rather than "That's the Story of My Life"? Admittedly, although I'm not really big on the latter, I don't think it's a bad song. But the next song is "Murder Mystery", which I don't want to be on this album. Yes, the Velvet Underground were an experimental band at times. No, I do not want their half-assed "experiment" of a song stuck on after all the great songs that precede it. Surely it fits in better on an earlier album, if it fits anywhere. The record as a whole isn't "experimental" enough to warrant saying, in the song's defense, that it's kind of a patchwork thing, with some songs more experimental than others. The song sticks out too much for that to work, because the other songs are too conventional. So, again with the guilt by association stuff, I don't want to hear "Story of My Life" because it precedes "Murder Mystery" which I don't want to hear, and I consider "Story of My Life" more of a piece with "Murder Mystery" than with "I'm Set Free" because... why?

I'm not sure I have a good reason - remember, I said I'm just reflecting on what I do by habit.

I do like my records to end on end-of-record-sounding songs like "I'm Set Free", though. That may have something to do with it.

Also, it may be that I just consider "I'm Set Free" to fit in better with what precedes it than I do "Story of My Life", which would mean that I think the record as a whole is more unified if I stop there. Possibly this explanation, though it's not much of one, is more acceptable (because it is more plausible for me to say without further explanation that "Set Free" goes better with the other songs than to say that "Story" goes better with "Murder Mystery" than "Set Free"). Unfortunately "Story" and "Free" fit together lyrically...

4 Jan '02 04:22:05 AM

Jimmy found my blog recently and we got to talking. I'm happy to see he's moved his own journal online. I think everyone should, of course.

Coincidentally, I found myself listening to The Velvet Underground today, but I still would prefer it if it stopped with "I'm Set Free".

2 Jan '02 10:33:20 PM

Ewing in rough on Flavor Flav shocker. Well, yeah... more would have been nice. But isn't it good just to hear him?

(Alternately: isn't there a middle ground between what Tom says, and all the people who praise the track for Flav's "amped up" etc. appearance, when he's barely on it at all? Though the oh-are-you-from-my-hood-too chatter at the end is amicable and pleasing because of it.)

2 Jan '02 08:25:04 AM

I guess that's where the "glitch" comes in - otherwise it's sort of hard to tell. ps i love you rather than Down with the Scene.

2 Jan '02 08:23:59 AM

And it's a very small album - you have to listen in.

2 Jan '02 08:14:51 AM

At times, just some, Prefuse 73 reminds me of Boards of Canada, maybe someone else trying their hand at the BOC thing but coming from a different perspective.

The quote - which I suppose is from Herren, at least it sounds like something he'd say if what I've heard about him is any indication - about wanting to go back farther, have something "more classic," not just "rappers rapping over a beat," bothers me a bit. That alone is the sort of authenticity talk that should be regarded circumspectly, but it's just made worse by the context. The album is praised as "glitch-hop," and though there are rappers on it, it's mostly instrumental hip-hop, meaning beats and melody fragments, and other noises and things. So, a genre where claims to authenticity are often central (as if they're not in other genres - I wonder...). And music that claims to be an experimental take on the genre, so perhaps this is a reason for it to defend its own authenticity.

Perhaps it's just a strategic move, though, one of self-definition. The music here is different from Boards of Canada, definitely, but I think the two are similar enough that it's reasonable to ask why the Prefuse record is treated like a hip-hop record, and Music Has the Right to Children is not. If it's just a matter of taking them for what they claim to be (as I recall, there wasn't much discourse around the Boards of Canada record that treated it like hip-hop, although hip-hop was certainly mentioned in reference to the beats, so maybe people just didn't bother), then what's gotten by doing this? What would be gotten by treating them differently? (Prefuse as an IDM record, for example.)

This probably sounds a little too suspicious anyway. I mean, if Prefuse are glitch-hop, then they're being treated as part of a loose group of music that's got some connection to IDM, and to other non-hip-hop music. But when I see them mentioned, the focus seems to be on hip-hop - it's just worth thinking about what this does, and how much it's guided by the music on the record.

Here's a thought: it's guided more by the louder songs, and not by the quieter songs, which occupy a hazier area.