Subject: lit-l: Word from the mountaintop
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 03:09:19 CST
From: Bcye nekulturnykh 
Precedence: bulk
X-UIDL: a434e416f7b7d9f4295d212d3f309911

Know before I start that it always both (a) pains me greatly to do this sort
of thing, and (b) pleases me immensely. When you take music as seriously as
I do it's hard to make these kinds of decisions about music, as they require
examination of your own tastes, the tastes of others, and the way you think
your tastes do and/or should interact with those of others. So beware - I
do not enter into this lightly.

At first I shall attempt to follow your collection somewhat closely, while
making significant departures from it. Later, I will make more radical
(relative to your collection) suggestions.

A long, long time ago, musically speaking, I bought a Violent Femmes CD because
I heard they were pretty good, and someone I once knew (Joe Hentzel, but let's
not get into that) listened to music I thought was pretty weird.

I didn't like it at ALL, and though of course my memory is faulty and selective,
I recall that as being one of the earlier CDs I kept "trying" to see if I liked
it. Ultimately I just sold it, though, I think to the CD Warehouse on Merle
Hay in Des Moines.

The 1998 CD _In the Aeroplane Over the Sea_, by Neutral Milk Hotel, drew some
comparisons to "a fuzzed-out Violent Femmes," though of course the comparisons
were made tentatively and cautiously. NMH was the talk of the internet
all year, and the disc made many peoples' best-of-the-year lists. When I
finally gave in and hunted it down (it is hard, even for me, to buy something
that no one seems to discuss; I posit that there's a certain critical mass
of discussion one needs to see before one starts hunting down appropriate
information about music, or recognizing the information that's already there.
But I digress...), I was not disappointed. This album is amazing. It's one
of the trendy "low-fi" efforts that have abounded during the 90s, but it
doesn't sound bad - it's just not super-produced like, say, an Aerosmith
CD. When I use low-fi, I really think of bands like Guided by Voices,
not NMH, despite what other people say. GbV SOUND crappy, sonically speaking
(otherwise I don't like them, but what do I know?). The songs on _Aeroplane_
pretty much all run together, and are a mixture of solo acoustic guitar,
often strummed furiously and quickly, fuzzed-out full band parts that
tend to be really loud, and drunken, dirgelike salvation-army-style band
music. I mean all of those words as descriptive of good things. The
vocals are plaintive and though sometimes the lyrics don't make (semantic)
sense, they nevertheless conjure up touching images of life in the 1940s.
When I listen to "Two-Headed Girl" I am reminded not just in subject matter,
but in tone, to John Barth's story about a similar misfit in _Lost in the
Funhouse_. The lyrics also tangle with spirituality and death in intriguing

You should own everything by the Counting Crows. They aren't even, musically,
that different from some things you own. Information about the Counting
Crows is easy to find, so I leave you to it, except to say that I think
the only person I've ever met who didn't like the Counting Crows was
Rob Ruminski, because they sounded "too wanky." Despite what I think
about liking music just because lots of people do, I think this has
some relevance.

The Soft Machine were one of the prominent bands of the psychadelic
underground in England during the late sixties and early seventies,
second only to Pink Floyd (during which time Pink Floyd was recording
NOTHING you would have ever hard, so keep quiet). Their sound, however,
is radically different from Pink Floyd's. They were a heady bunch
(educated in philosophy and music and other things at prestigious
English schools) and were interested in making "head music," rather
than the rock music of the time so conducive to dancing and not much
else. They relied on, as they said, "the shock value of unstructured
composition," and their music was highly jazz inflected, sometimes to
the point of not really being rock at all (Soft Machine are at times
credited with having some non-trivial role in the development of
fusion). _Third_ is my favorite by them and is often singled out as
their best, but _Volume I_ and _Volume II_ are also quite good. Avoid
later albums as the band lineup changed a lot and, consequently, so
did their music.

Well. I amend my earlier roadmap. It seems you don't really have much NEW
which professes to RAWK, despite having some rock music from the late 60s
and early to mid 70s. Perhaps we can amend that. This is much harder, then,
because I don't have much of a foundation (in your collection) to work

Fugazi is one of the most creative and important "punk" bands of the 90s.
If you want to be adventurous, you should check out one of _Red Medicine_
(1995) or _Repeater_ (1990). The music is difficult to describe, for me.
It's angular and convoluted at times. Mackaye and Pizzicoti can't really
sing in the traditional sense, but they write and sing some strangely
effective melodies. The lyrics, though fragmentary, often come together
to form meaningful incitements of (fairly standard) punk targets like
corporate America and the government. Also, they rawk. Beware, though,
comparisons to what you probably know as punk, like Nirvana, Green Day,
and Offspring. They are not the same sort of "punk."

I note here that Rob Ruminski thought Fugazi were (the were agreeing with
thought, not indicating that they've broken up) one of the best bands
around. In a sense he was right but that doesn't excuse his opinions
on the Counting Crows. Rob was intensely political. :)

There's a branch of English music in the 90s known a "shoegazer" music,
because the bands which "started" the movement tended to play music with
sheet upon sheet of loud, distorted guitar, staring at the floor while
grinding away at the music. I haven't been able to get hold of much of
the earlier stuff, but I'm interested in it. The American band Hum, who
you probably remember from their song "Stars" that got radio airplay
near the end of your high school years / beginning of your college years,
seems to be a band in a similar vein, though the causal relationship
might not be there. Hum are from Urbana-Champaign, and their first album
sounds very much like their nearby, more famous statemates the
Smashing Pumpkins' early stuff (like _Gish_, and some of _Siamese Dream_
and _Pisces Iscariot_). Their most recent albums, _You'd Prefer an
Astronaut_ (1995 - the album "Stars" is from) and _Downward is Heavenward_
(1998), are astounding pieces of what's known as "dream rock." I think
it's called "dream rock" because of the lyrical inclination toward topics
or simply accoutrements of the fantastic sort, combined with a sound
which is very much primarily concerned with large slabs of sound. Don't
ask me, critics confuse me too. Music like this has ties to "space
rock" of the sort that grew out of the psychadelic movement in the
70s, but older spacerock relied, literally, on lots of sparse music,
and "weird" and "spacey" sounds, while Hum's music is loud, visceral,
and direct (in a dissociated sort of way).

To elaborate on this "dream rock" appellation: most of the songs on
_You'd Prefer an Astronaut_ mention space or space travel in some
minor way. It's not as if they're some goofy "science fiction" band
(which, in a sense, Man or Astro-Man? are - but they're still good
in their own way), but it doesn't detract, despite whatever problems
I have with the metaphorical misuse of scientific notions. The
last song on _Downard is Heavenward_, "The Scientists," has a line,
"put this benzene ring around your finger," and yes, looking at it out
of context, I think it has a high cheese factor, but when listening it's
so awesome to hear, in a meaningful context, that I get chills.

Some people have called Hum geek-rock, though that term's probably overused
as well. Here they really should mean geek - think engineer, rather than
dweeb (if you can separate the two).

For that matter, you should pick up _Siamese Dream_ (1993), _Mellon Collie
and the Infinite Sadness_ (1995), and _Adore_ (1998), all of which are awesome,
and important to boot. _Adore_ really sounds very little like any of the
Pumpkins' previous work, and it's not the most immediate thing in the
world (Billy Corgan called it "arcane night music," and I think that
fits beautifully), but it's worth it.

Despite what you might think about Marilyn Manson's (the man's) religious
inclinations, Marilyn Manson's (the band's) _Antichrist Superstar_ (1996) is a
good, satisfying listen. So is Nine Inch Nails' _The Downward Spiral_ (1994).
Both are not horribly inventive musically, being after all (sort of)
popularizations of industrial music, but that doesn't detract from their
goodness. _Antichrist Superstar_ draws on Nietzche's account of the
antichrist, which (AFAIK) should not be taken as literally as you would
think. It portrays Manson as someone who comes into his position as an
antichrist (someone exercising his will to power, Joel?), then faces the
consequences of such a position. Insofar as popular music can be construed
as social commentary, I think this is a very effective one. _The Downward
Spiral_ is largely (obsessively, almost?) concerned with control in its
various guises - mostly intrapersonal and sexual, in Reznor's interpretation.
_The Fragile_, his new CD, comes out this spring, supposedly (it's been
delayed a lot). If you really want to be on the edge, you could pick it
up right away - it will make or break his critical reputation, since he's
taken so long in (meticulously) producing it. It's said to be heavily
influenced by Tom Waits, which is a large divergence for NIN and a
promising sign for me.

Tom Waits' _Bone Machine_ (1992) actually won a Grammy for best "alternative"
music performance. I don't know if that's the year before "alternative" stopped
meaning anything to the Grammies, but it was certainly a pretty apt label
back then. _Bone Machine_ is a logical extension of the stuff Waits started
doing in the 80s with new recording techniques and sparse, unusual (for rock
music) instrumentation. Lyrically, of course, it's fascinating. Waits has
a new CD coming out on April 27, the day before my birthday. I can't
wait (it's his first since 1992, and I think it's exciting to be able to get
new music from a mature, established artist who hasn't petered out yet -
like, say, Pink Floyd).

Tortoise are one of the premiere "post-rock" bands. Their excellent 1996
release, _Millions Now Living Will Never Die_, combines all sorts of left-
field musical influences like dub, minimalism (by way of minimalistic techno),
and krautrock with a loosely interpreted jazz idiom. The band has two
bassists and multiple percussionists, but the music is highly melodic.
All the players are highly technically accomplished; there are no vocals.
The first track, "Djed," is a marvelous 20+-minute multiparted opus.
Tortoise's first CD, _Tortoise_, and their most recent, _TNT_, are both
more experimental, and jazzier, in different ways. Tortoise do not
really rawk, but at times they are quite restrainedly energetic.

Every album by Spiritualized is amazing, but I like _Ladies and gentlemen
we are floating in space_ (1997) the best. I think _Royal Albert Hall..._
really is one of the best live albums ever. And it's just Spiritualized
on any old day. Spiritualzed have been similarly acclaimed all around, etc.,
and have many respectable antecedents, etc., despite having crafted an
exhilerating thing of their own.

I'm getting tired now. The more I type, the more I have to say, and the
more CDs I have to say it about. So I'm going to list things that I've
bought in the last X time units, in reverse order, in the hopes that it
will provide some clue as to what I think is good. I've mostly been
buying "new" things lately (as opposed to 70s things), so consider it
somehow a guide to my contemporary tastes. I've gone through and tried
to asterisk some that especially hit me, FWIW. These go back to roughly
right when school got out last spring. As I mark them, I'm trying to
be sympathetic to your tastes, but in the process am using a woefully
inadequate number of asterisks for my tastes, and for the ad-hoc
system of asterisking developing under my feet as I asterisk.

Cop Shoot Cop	Release	1
Coltrane, John	My Favorite Things	1
KMFDM	Nihil	1
Cat Power	Moon Pix	1
*Firewater	The Ponzi Scheme	1
*Mogwai	Young Team	1
Mercury Rev	Deserter's Songs	1
*Tangerine Dream	Zeit	1
Autechre	Ae	1
Flaming Lips, The	Transmissions from the Satellite Heart	1
*Firewater	Get Off the Cross... We Need the Wood for the Fire	1
*Red House Painters	Songs for a Blue Guitar	1
Sylvian, David and Robert Fripp	The First Day	1
*Spiritualized	Pure Phase	1
Coltrane, John	Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Tapes	1
DiFranco, Ani	Up Up Up Up Up Up	1
Man or Astro-Man?	Experiment Zero	1
Under the Sun	1997 Demos + Bonus Live Tracks	1
*Labradford	Mi media naranja	1
*Neutral Milk Hotel	In the Aeroplane Over the Sea	1
Pearl Jam	Live on Two Legs	1
Harvey, P.J.	Is This Desire?	1
u-Ziq	Lunatic Harness	1
Squarepusher	Feed Me Weird Things	1
Parker, Charlie	Bird at the Hi-Hat	1
Monk, Thelonius	Live at the It Club - Complete	2
Hancock, Herbie	Head Hunters	1
Shostakovich, Dmitri	String Quartets (Complete) Volume 5: Nos. 14 and
15	1
Squarepusher	Music Is Rotted One Note	1
Einstuerzende Neubaten	Ende Neu	1
Cardigans, The	Gran Turismo	1
DJ Spooky	Songs of a Dead Dreamer	1
Medeski Martin & Wood	Combustication	1
DJ Spooky	Riddim Warfare	1
*Portishead	Roseland NYC Live	1
*Spiritualized	Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997 Live	2
*Phish	The Story of the Ghost	1
Soul Coughing	El Oso	1
Beethoven	String Quartets Op. 127, 131, 132, 135	2
*Faust	IV	1
Electric Company	Studio City	1
Aphex Twin	Richard D. James Album	1
Trans Am	Surrender to the Night	1
Low	owL Remix Low	1
Jesus Lizard, The	Blue	1
Pavement	Slanted and Enchanted	1
Coltrane, John	Crescent	1
Marilyn Manson	Mechanical Animals	1
Global Communication	76:14	1
Mahler, Gustav	Symphony No. 5	1
Stravinsky, Igor	Le sacre du printemps; Petrouchka; Scenes de ballet;
L'Oiseau de feau -- Suite; The Firebird Suite; Symphony in 3
Movements	2
Mahler, Gustav	Symphony No. 7	1
Coltrane, John	A Love Supreme	1
Bingen, Hildegard von	11000 Virgins: Chants for the Feast of St.
Ursula	1
Sonic Youth	Silver Session	1
California Guitar Trio	Pathways	1
Guy, Buddy	Heavy Love	1
Dr. John	Anutha Zone	1
Pavement	Brighten the Corners	1
Massive Attack	Protection	1
Low	One More Reason To Forget	1
Masters of Reality	How High the Moon	1
Local H	Pack Up the Cats	1
Waits, Tom	Franks Wild Years	1
Hum	Electra2000	1
Coleman, Ornette	Free Jazz	1
*Smith, Patti	Peace and Noise	1
Stereolab	The Groop Played "Space Age Batchelor Pad Music"	1
Rollins, Henry	The Boxed Life	2
Low	Songs for a Dead Pilot	1
Cracker	Gentleman's Blues	1
Better than Ezra	How Does Your Garden Grow?	1
Sea and Cake, The	The Fawn	1
*Autechre	tri repetae++	2
*Laika	Sounds of the Satellites	1
Tortoise	TNT	1
Mingus, Charles	Pithecanthropus Erectus	1
*Eno, Brian	Another Green World	1
Tortoise	Tortoise	1
Soft Machine	Third	1
Bang on a Can	Music for Airports	1
Tortoise	Millions Now Living Will Never Die	1
Boo Radleys, The	C'Mon Kids	1
Spacemen 3	Perfect Prescription	1
*Fripp, Robert	A Blessing of Tears	1
Coltrane, John	Blue Train	1
*Eno, Brian	Ambient 1 / Music for Airports	1
Spiritualized	The Abbey Road EP	1
Lanegan, Mark	Scraps at Midnight	1
Metheny, Pat, Derek Bailey, Gregg Bendian, and Paul Wertico	The Sign
of Four	3
Reed, Lou	Berlin	1
Davis, Miles	Birth of the Cool	1
Tricky	Pre-Millennium Tension	1
*Brubeck, Dave	Time Out	1
*Massive Attack	Mezzanine	1
Squirrel Nut Zippers	Perennial Favorites	1
Hendrix, Jimi	Electric Ladyland	1
Hum	Downward is Heavenward	1
Tuatara	Breaking the Ethers	1
Hum	You'd Prefer an Astronaut	1
Soft Machine, The	Volumes One and Two	1
Primus	Miscellaneous Debris	1
Tricky	Angels with Dirty Faces	1
Counting Crows	Across a Wire: Live in New York	2
Mingus, Charles	The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady	1
Vivaldi, Antonio	The Four Seasons, etc.	1
Chopin, Frederic	The Complete Nocturnes	2
Beethoven, Ludwig van	The Piano Concertos	3
Radiohead	Airbag / How Am I Driving?	1
Lucia, Paco de, Al di Meola, and John McLaughlin	Paco de Lucia, Al di
Meola, and John McLaughlin: The Guitar Trio	1
Rancid	Life Won't Wait	1
Dirty Three	Dirty Three	1
*King Crimson	Absent Lovers	2
Orb	The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld	2
*Fripp, Robert	The Gates of Paradise	1
Beck, Jeff	Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop with Terry Bozzio and Tony
Hymas	1
Beastie Boys	The In Sound From Way Out	1
*Primus	Frizzle Fry	1
Davis, Miles	Porgy and Bess	1
Zappa, Frank	The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life	2
*King Crimson	Beat	1
Mahler, Gustav	Symphony No. 6 "Tragic"	1
Monilal Nag and Mahaprush Misra	Classical Music of North India: Sitar
and Tabla I	1
Rachmaninov	The Symphonies	3
Fugazi	Steady Diet of Nothing	1
Liquid Tension Experiment	Liquid Tension Experiment	1
King Crimson	Three of a Perfect Pair	1
Smashing Pumpkins, The	Adore	1
Morrison, Van	Moondance	1
Catherine Wheel	Like Cats and Dogs	1
My Bloody Valentine	Loveless	1
Villa-Lobos, Heitor	Alma Brasileira	1
Stereolab	Emperor Tomato Ketchup	1
Sun Ra	Space is the Place	1
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus	Complete Wind Music	3
Ellington, Duke	This is Jazz #36: Duke Ellington Plays Standards	1
Walker, Scott	Tilt	1
*Satie, Erik	Piano Works Vol. 2	1
*Satie, Erik	Piano Works Vol. 1	1
Zappa, Frank	Hot Rats	1
Hendrix, Jimi	Are You Experienced?	1
Fugazi	13 Songs	1
Schubert, Franz	Impromptus	1
Radiohead	Pablo Honey	1
Pink Floyd	Meddle	1
Sneaker Pimps	Becoming X	1
Davis, Miles	Live-Evil	2
Bad Religion	No Substance	1
Bruford, Bill with Ralph Towner and Eddie Gomez	If Summer Had Its
Ghosts	1
Dale, Dick	The Best of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones	1
Reich, Steve	Music for 18 Musicians	1
ProjeKct Two	Space Groove	2
*Fugazi	End Hits	1
*King Crimson	Discipline	1
Harper, Ben	The Will to Live	1
Harper, Ben	Live	1
*Velvet Underground, The	Peel Slowly and See	5
California Guitar Trio, The	Yamanashi Blues	1
Dave Matthews Band	Before These Crowded Streets	1
*Blur	Parklife	1
*Flaming Lips, The	Clouds Taste Metallic	1
Sonic Youth	Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star	1
*Blur	Modern Life is Rubbish	1
Cracker	Cracker	1

On women artists: I, like you, am largely ignorant. Anna can help some.
I don't have much because I'm not really in to a lot of the sort of
"woman artist" music that's popular. Some I like are

Ani Difranco
Patti Smith
Cat Power (just got it, not sure what I think yet)

I don't really think of my music as being "by men/women," though
(probably because of a male bias), and I can't really think of
others that I own off the top of my head, though I know they're there.

LOW! How could I forget Low? Get _The Curtain Hits the Cast_. It's amazing.
Anna could offer an opinion on it, possibly. Also Aphex Twin, _Selected
Ambient Works Volume II_. Low is two guys and one woman. Aphex Twin
is one weird British guy who makes his own electronics but I thought
I'd mention him because Anna has them both. She should also be able
to offer comments on Ani Difranco.

Stereolab is great and has two women in it, as well as some men.
I like _Dots and Loops_ best, may be too foofy for you, so perhaps
try _Emperor Tomato Ketchup_ instead.

Please do something productive with this horrific labor of love I have

I have failed miserably in conveying the worth I find in my music,
but I hope I've been of some help.


Bitches Brew is still an awesome album, but wait for the reissue

all doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes

Kein Mitleid Fur Die Menschen