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.

newest | archives | search | about | wishlist | flickr | email | rss

4 Mar '03 06:47:56 AM

Read a bit from Gravity's Rainbow on my way home, from my old copy - I still can't get into the newer one the same way. From the section where Gustav and Saure are arguing about music - "All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland." I must've read it dozens of times by now. This time through I could particularly feel myself concentrating on each word, on thinking through it, picturing it, all that good reading stuff. I couldn't help but think of the last thing I listened to the other night while drunk, before going to sleep - Kind of Blue on the headphones. Even though I know that record much better than the Pynchon, somehow it's harder for me to concentrate on it in the same way. I expect every note - almost every note - yet there are always little bits here or there that I miss (often passing notes during a phrase, short ones that maybe I have trouble remembering because I can't whistle or sing that fast?), and in part that makes me feel like I'm always catching up, pursuing the music; the fact that it happens in time takes part of it out of my control, or rather my ability to consider it at my leisure.

3 Mar '03 04:03:58 PM

I can't believe they're actually playing this 50 Cent "remix" of "Cry Me a River" on the radio! The very definition of "half-assed".

1 Mar '03 08:48:51 AM

One thing, though, is that now the album (Camofleur yo) sounds like it was produced by a goddamn idiot. I will not think that tomorrow morning.

1 Mar '03 08:42:27 AM

The nice thing is that every note sounds like a really good idea. I mean, when I'm sober the notes still sound like good ideas but now they sound like really good ideas, really really. Can I say another 'really'? Yeah.

Even the dumb little twinkly notes at the end of this song.

1 Mar '03 08:38:21 AM

I know that properly to avoid being an indie caricature I should be saying this about AOR schlock or a Christina Aguilera song or something, but man this Gastr del Sol sounds beautiful right now. (The Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne songs I heard tonight sounded beautiful too, but then pretty much everything I heard today sounded beautiful, including ahem here this is for you Jeff Blind Willie Johnson. How great is that?)

1 Mar '03 08:32:50 AM

You know what is possibly slightly freaky when you are really drunk, is that Gastr del Sol record, "Blues Subtitled Untitled" or whatever it's called. Jesus, is is possible to keep things balanced in each channel instead of flittering back and forth? Perhaps it is not.

28 Feb '03 05:32:23 AM

The Bad Plus (a piano trio including Minneapolis-based Happy Apple drummer David King) have released a new record, their major-label debut, These Are the Vistas, on Columbia. It has seven originals (not all new to this release) and three covers, of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Heart of Glass", and Aphex Twin's "Flim".

All the songs have liner notes (supplied by the band, as far as I can tell). The notes for the Nirvana and Blondie songs are related. Nirvana: "An enormous hit lovingly deconstructed." Blondie: "An enormous hit ruthlessly deconstructed." It's interesting, then, how similar the two covers are. I would say that neither original is especially harmonically rich. I'm not sure whether or not this need be a serious problem for a jazz-inclined cover; bop covers of "simple" pop tunes of the day often solved it by simply dispensing quickly with the melody. However, this is not a bop record. Though they play through more of the melody to "Teen Spirit", they ultimately end up treating the melody that accompanies the albino/mulatto lines as a melodic and rhythmic cell. Much the same happens with Debbie Harry's opening phrases in "Heart". But unlike something like Brad Mehldau's cover of Nick Drake's "River Man", where the cell is transformed, manipulated, basically treated as an object of composition via improvisation, here I just get the impression that the cells are being thrown around a bit. In that sense, there's not much separating the two covers. Perhaps I have high expectations for "deconstructed" covers, but the major distinctions between the two seem to be these: the Nirvana cover is played through a bit more completely (and, as I've read, it's like sad or something, hmm where have I heard of that trick before), and the Blondie cover is broken apart by a big noisy section before they stop fucking around with the rhythm and just go all-out disco. (The note for the song continues: "Is the long vamp (before the final drum salutation) joyful or tragic?") These don't seem like strong enough differences to warrant one song's being "lovingly" deconstructed, while the other is "ruthlessly" so. The Nirvana cover is more or less straight - including the "intense" bits - and the Blondie cover is too, if you consider the freakout in the middle to be confusing, instead of exhibiting a lack of mercy for the original (for its... what? integrity? unity? emotional tenor? substance?).

The cover of "Flim" does not share the flaw of insufficiently tarting up the original's melody. It's nice, straightforward, direct, kind of like the band's original, "Everywhere You Turn", which I first mistook for the Aphex Twin cover since it had been years since I played the original. But it raises its own questions, questions that many of the songs might also raise. When the music is performed live, on traditional jazz instruments (also, in the notes, someone is careful to add: "there are no edits or overdubs on this record"), but many of the usual hallmarks of jazz are gone, and the music starts sounding more and more like translations of electronic music into a live-performance setting, what are the reasons for listening to music like this as opposed to something else? For performing it? Now, as far as I know the record doesn't claim to be a jazz record, exactly. There are reasons for thinking of it in relation to the jazz tradition, and reasons for thinking of it apart from that tradition. Perhaps sorting through those will help me figure out why I might want to listen to this record as opposed to my Aphex Twin records and Miles Davis records (separately).

27 Feb '03 08:39:34 AM

So I thought, earlier, that I might lie down and do that careful listening, like-meditation thing again, with the third movement of the op. 132 quartet. But by the time I got around to bed, that seemed like an awful lot of work, which reminded me that it is work, despite the idea (maybe true) that meditation is supposed to be relaxing in some way.

So I didn't do it. But I ended up staying awake for another couple of hours, and now I feel bitter, irritated, and bleak (mysteriously - probably not from just having stayed up longer).

So suddenly it seems worthwhile again to listen carefully before bed, because of what it has to offer me.

27 Feb '03 08:29:51 AM

Of course, the album track / single distinction might be key for the stuff below about whether one should write off commercial rap.