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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5 Feb '02 05:36:35 AM

Today's listening: Talking Heads on the way in, them some Pan American at my desk, then Emergency & I, Jay-Z on the way home, and now Milestones.

4 Feb '02 11:58:58 PM

I'm happy to report that Badger is only temporarily away as a result of internet access problems and a new computer, and will be back again in a while.

4 Feb '02 11:57:26 PM

More thoughts (to add to these) on what Tim had to say about the Dismemberment Plan, especially his comparison to Talking Heads.

I popped in Remain in Light on the way in today, and I have to say, only "Born Under Punches" really approaches, for me, the kind of giving-in-to-the-groove that I understand Tim to be talking about. It sort of happens in other tracks, to some extent, but even the most dance-friendly ones seem to have more of a single-groove component with embellishments. "Punches", on the other hand, attains a kind of polyrhytmic magnificence that I wish the whole album had. Also, it reminds me heavily, in the way all the parts are contributing important things rhythmically, of the Plan's "Back and Forth". I guess what I could be saying here, then, is that neither album seems to me to do what Tim wants (which means I'm probably misunderstanding him, or he's not getting through to me).

However, there's something to be said for the song structures, production, and lyrics. I think they make some of the difference (somewhat paradoxically, since one typically thinks that it's mostly the prevalence of beats that would make the difference). By "song structures" I mean the way that the singer interacts with the band, where his lyrics go in the whole mix of things. (Both albums have lots of singing + cooking band songs.) Without looking more closely, I'd venture to say that Morrison's lyrics are more unified than Byrne's, even though I know full well that lots of the lyrics on the Heads album hang together pretty well. So it might be in the precision, the strangeness, of the individual phrases. Vocal delivery important too as Tim notes. Greater reliance by Morrison on first person probably key. (Even on "Ellen and Ben", rare for them by involving lots of third person narrative, involves the third-wheel first-person narrator, though the extent to which he is a third wheel is debatable, since as he makes clear Ellen and Ben sort of alienate or at least ignore everyone they know as a result of their "having sex again and again".)

It would be interesting to look more closely, then, at the sources in the lyrics (music too?) to which the singer-narrators' psychological uneasiness could be attributed, since they're obviously psychically related in distant ways. Besides just the third person stuff, it seems to me as if the sources in Byrne's lyrics are more worldly, external, uncontrollable stuff; in Morrison's case, even if he's often driven by his reactions to the unconrollable external world, his concern is with the stability of his self under the barrage of influences. Byrne's concern is more with a self, or selves, maybe - something more general, or at least aspiring to it.

4 Feb '02 10:32:55 AM

I mean, like, "Double Rail" sounds like a really busy Plastikman track. And if HE'S dance...

4 Feb '02 10:20:35 AM

Oh, and I guess I should say: yes, of course the things I liked a lot then changed over time. Not surprising. Part of what I wanted to write down was just some of what things have shifted. I do think, though, that the reasons for the shifting are more complex than "I discovered that these records were actually better." I would be a fool to think that.

4 Feb '02 10:14:29 AM

Back in April 2000 I mentioned five favorites from 1999 and 1998.

1999: Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage Volume I, Mogwai - Come On Die Young, Labradford - E luxo so, Burning Airlines - Mission: Control!, Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (Remaster). 1998 Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children, Dirty Three - Ocean Songs, Godspeed You Black Emperor! - f#a# oo, Hum - Downward is Heavenward, Autechre - LP5.

Though I did say those were just for that day, some thoughts on the choices now. I haven't listened to Olivia Tremor Control in months and months. Hum or Godspeed either, though I've listened to them more recently, and would be more willing to put them on now (especially the Hum, which is just more generally comfortable music for me - the other two are a lot more set apart from other music, in my mind). I haven't listened much to the Mogwai or Labradford in the six months, though I've had new records by them that I've been listening to a lot instead. (Also when I have put on older records by them they've been earlier than the ones listed.) The Dirty Three I've listened a lot to lately, though that's been unusual for the past six months. I haven't listened to much Autechre, including LP5, though I guess I wouldn't mind (I think my copy of Incunabula is on the shelf in my office right now). I listen to Burning Airlines frequently, though since I moved I've been listening to their second album more, trying to get with it. The Miles is one of my favorite albums ever, so even though I haven't listened to it much for a while (here and there, here and there), I'm not at all concerned about having forgotten it or drifted away from it. The Boards of Canada I listen to all the time, at least once a month, but usually a lot more once I get it out again (on and off again as nighttime music).

Without even trying to make sure I consider everything I like that was released in those years, I can come up with records from them that I now like better than some of the ones above. The Dismemberment Plan record mentioned in the original posting (as one I would feel like listing pretty soon). American Analog Set's Golden Band. Low's Secret Name, which I probably didn't list then because I was slightly disappointed by it in the face of the expectations I developed due to their earlier albums (the disappointment arose because of its differences, not deficiencies). I probably like Tortoise's TNT better than the Godspeed or Autechre records, although unlike the other 1999 records I just mentioned I'm suspicious enough about whether I like other records from 1998 better than it to say so. I like Outkast's Aquemini better than any of those 1998 records, probably. Also, the Beta Band's 3 E.P.'s and s/t came out in 98 and 99, and I would probably throw the s/t in on a good day.

(I put in the caveat about not being exhaustive above because of the way I chose the records: by looking around my room at CDs I've been listening to recently, and then checking the interweb to see when their earlier albums were released.)

4 Feb '02 09:23:44 AM

Maybe one reason so many people seem to disapprove of Mazurek's trumpet on that Pan American record is that it's got so much room ambience along with it on the recording, so that it sticks out because of that, and not just because of however it might stick out due to what he plays. Most other things on the record sound very close, not much air on them.

4 Feb '02 09:18:19 AM

So Tim finally bought a Dismemberment Plan record, and he writes a lot of interesting things about it. He and I and others (see bottom for the recent stuff) had things to say on this ILM thread. In particular, I wrote this paragraph:

I think the most interesting idea in Tim's piece is the thing about giving up to the groove. It's probably just my lesser familiarity with groove-based music, but I don't think I bring hopes like that to music that's reaching out to dance. It does make me wonder what reasons we might have for preferring dance/nondance fusions to cross farther in one direction than in the other. My intuition is that it's more helpful and interesting for them to hold back from giving in to the groove, barely, because once they cross the line they seem more like whatever-inflected dance music, which is made a lot; but music that stays behind in, say, post-hardcore, is doing a lot more to its core music. This also makes me wonder what Tim would make of their two previous albums, which to different degrees also dip into other kinds of music, but in less obvious ways, I think (given the number of songs on Change that chug along over a hot rhythm section). I think they make the monogroove character (cyclicalish structure rather than linearish-Pixiesque) of Change a lot more striking.

I guess though I've indicated it basically before, I should say that I kind of mentally divide the album up like this: tracks 1, 2, 3, and 5 go together. 4 and 6 go together. 7 is by itself, and 8, 9, 10, and 11 go together. I think of 1, 2, 3, and 5 going together because they have roughly similar constructions, but really because I think of them as being more like 1 and 5 even if they aren't: rhythm section tooling along, guitar doing something or other, and Travis expressing, to my delight, his extremely twentysomething existential self over the top in a laidback and open-ended manner. Note that since I think of these as 'monogroove' tracks as above, I'm ignoring the fact that "Face of the Earth" has lots of hardcoresque time signature switches (though within the different sections there's lots of monogroove!), or that "Superpowers" has a lot tighter lyrical construction, more traditional (er I think - note my notorious lyrical comprehension ability). 4 and 6 go together because they sound to me like they avoid the monogroove thing, sort of the Plan doing post-hardcore throwback stuff. This makes me pay less attention to them just because they don't fit into my crazy schemes. 7 is by itself because it's quiet and "slow".

The last four go by themselves and not with the earlier ones for a few reasons. Though they fit my monogroove thing better than, say, 4, 6, and 7, the fact that they are set off at the end of the album separates them in my head, too. (Apparently 5 isn't set off far enough apart from 1, 2, and 3 to make the same thing happen earlier on in the record.) Also, though they do all rely on important, central rhythmic parts, they don't do it in the same kind of way as the earlier monogroove stuff, Travis over the rhythm section. Things are closer together somehow, the song construction tighter maybe. The songs are also connected, for me, by their difference. Each of them seems more different from the others in its group than each of the songs in the first group seems from its others. So there's some kind of suite-like thing going on, I guess.

4 Feb '02 08:35:44 AM

They used a clip (starting in the middle) of Basement Jaxx's "Do Your Thing" (er I think - the gospelly one) tonight on "Malcom in the Middle". It didn't really seem appropriate because it was apparently meant to intensify the sense of chaos - Lois had gotten into a fight with a crazy woman at the company picnic - but even coming in at the diva's freakout in the song, it was way too exuberant, too controlled.