January 25, 2004 (link)
Why, look, it's a wonderfully bad picture of Joe Lieberman!
Very nice interview with Alan of Low here. I especially like this:
In general, I believe all artists are somewhat responsible for what they present to the public, not that Judas Priest are responsible for some teenager blowing his brains out because he was high and thought he heard something in the music instructing him to do so, but the act of making an artistic statement is like having a conversation with someone and you should be responsible for what you say. This includes acknowledging that there is a listener and that they may have as deep an experience as the artist did in creating it, if that makes any sense. At the end of the day, you kind of have to try not to listen too much to that voice and just trust yourself.
This is a nice way of putting something that I've been grappling with for a while. There are certain kinds of music -- tracks, albums, even genres -- from which I instinctively pull back, even while at the same time acknowledging that the people making that music are sincere, competent, and whatever else, because there's something in it that feels toxic to me. When I try to explain why that is, the best thing I've normally been able to come up with is something along the lines of "The vision of the world that music offers is of no interest to me". There's something about Alan's statement that completes that idea. And I also like its acknowledgement of the idea that music is a powerful dialogue with the world -- i.e. not merely a commodity, a form of entertainment to be used and disposed of as necessary, despite the obvious ideological appeal that has to a certain type of individual (a type of individual who seldom, if ever, produces any creative work of significance). It is indeed a conversation, with the universe, with one's fellow human beings (and the occasional domestic or wild animal!), with the imagined future and the generous past.
Current music: The Beatles - Abbey Road
January 24, 2004 (link)
Take care. I hope to see you back someday.
So the big news is that I've made some major progress in figuring out the riddle of Y. Bhekhirst -- or, at least, I've discovered the identity of the person who seems to be behind most or all of his music. For the moment, I've decided not to publish this person's name on my site, but you can find the answer by doing the following:
This doesn't tell us anything about the Hot in the Airport recording sessions, or give us any real biographical details about the person in question, but it's a hell of a lot more than we knew before. Thanks to the Jandek list for giving me the idea to do this search.
In other news, I've had a couple bizarre encounters with spam recently. First, I got a spam with the following paragraph in it (warning -- this is quite disturbing):
"Very useful laboratory animals, they parallel many human characteristics. Take a puppy, abuse him, kick him, mistreat him -- he'll revert to feral carnivore. Take his litter brother, pet him, talk to him, let him sleep with you, but train him -- he's a happy, well-behaved house pet. Take another from that same litter, pet him on even days and kick him on odd days. You'll have him so confused that he'll be ruined for either role; he can't survive as a wild animal and he doesn't understand what is expected of a pet. Pretty soon he won't eat, he won't sleep, he can't control his functions; he just cowers and shivers."
Normally a quick Google turns up the source of these things (i.e. blocks of text used to confuse spam filters), but I can't find it anywhere. Anyone know what this comes from? It may well be the most disturbing thing I've ever gotten in a spam.
Bizarre encounter number two:
Go here to J.'s site. Read the first paragraph of the entry from 27 April 2001. Note the phrase "Phil and make a rap song".
Now do a Google search on that phrase, and prepare to be appalled, disturbed, and/or amused -- whichever you prefer, really: I felt all three, and more. Many things came out of that recording session -- a good band, a bunch of fun concerts, a new era in Italian-American studies -- but I don't think either of us would've guessed that it'd one day be transformed into a placeholder narrative for weblog spam -- thus taking its place alongside the Bible, The Wizard of Oz...and horrible commentaries on the finer points of torturing innocent puppies. ("That has such people in't", indeed.)
On a lighter note: the IUMA site is currently running ridiculously slow, but if it ever gets back up to speed, be sure to check out Dokaka. His version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is one of the craziest things I've heard in a long time, like some sort of bizarre Japanese cross between Beavis & Butt-head, Vorak, Jud Jud, and whatever else: it's great. But what really knocked me out of my chair: he covers "Directions"!!?!
Current music: AC/DC - High Voltage
January 18, 2004 (link)
It's about that time again:
Men's semifinalists: Younes El Aynaoui, Andre Agassi, Mark Philippoussis, David Nalbandian
Actually, I think this year someone's going to come out of nowhere and make the semifinals, probably on the women's side.
Random thoughts on Abbey Road:
Current music: A Minor Forest - Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996) (Thought I'd give it a try; can't say I'm much taken with it. In fact, I think I'll reach for the stop button right about now...)
January 11, 2004 (link)
You've probably never wondered how this got its name. But in case you ever did, now you know. Whoever did the naming at Oil Well clearly had a sense of humor. (How did I find this out? I got there by way of looking for information on expired SSL certificates, believe it or not.)
In other news, I've just discovered Bark Psychosis by way of their EP / 21-minute single Scum. I had no idea they dated all the way back to the late 1980s, nor that they were apparently the band in reaction to whom the term "post-rock" was coined: knowing nothing about them, I had thought they were a current act! There are some very attractive guitar and drum sounds on Scum, and I can imagine how this music might've been very intriguing to listeners in 1992 who were looking for "an alternative to the alternative". I'll have to check out Hex.
Current music: Stars of the Lid - "Sun Drugs"
January 10, 2004 (link)
It's funny: with all the crazy music that's out there, Merzbow and Masonna and Metal Machine Music -- and even some stuff that doesn't begin with M! -- you'd think that, if one were to set out to traumatize an unprepared listener, something along those lines would be the perfect choice. But I think you'd find that, for many people, the music most likely to make them run screaming from the room would be something far more conventional, in all ways but one: by which I mean, quarter-tone piano music. When people ask me "Oh, you have perfect pitch, doesn't it drive you crazy when things are out of tune?", I usually answer "No, if anything, I have a higher tolerance for out-of-tune-ness than many people I know, I grew up with an out-of-tune upright piano", blah blah blah.
But these Hába quarter-tone pieces...and others like them, Ives for one...they come damn close to making me feel physically ill! That's not to say there aren't some moments I enjoy -- certainly, there are -- but man, it can be pretty hard to take. It's something about the piano in particular (it doesn't bother me at all on wind instruments, nor on percussion), and I think it's also something specific to quarter-tones, since I've never heard anything in (for instance) Harry Partch's tuning system that bothered me at all, let alone made me twitch, cringe, and wince like quarter-tone piano pieces do. I guess you could sum it up with something like: "It sounds so close to being right, yet it sounds so wrong..."
One thing about Brian Wilson that doesn't get mentioned that often: at his peak, he had this uncanny ability to write songs that skirt right up to the edge of corn -- and would only require a tiny little push to tumble over that edge -- but they always somehow manage to stay on the right side of the line. Exhibit #1 is the rehearsal tapes for "Good Vibrations", which I've talked about before, and which (as I said) provides ample evidence as to how narrow the margin is between brilliance and kitsch.
Exhibit #2 is this Beach Boys double live album I have on vinyl, sans Brian, which turns "Caroline, No" into a sort of cheesy fluffy lite-jazz number. Normally, I have a reasonably high tolerance for that sort of thing; if I ever become an A & R man for a major label, no doubt agents will tell their acts, "OK, you're sending your demo to Phil? Nice, just put a Rhodes on it and he'll eat it up." But when you compare that to the original, with its beautiful arrangement and delicate orchestration, it becomes apparent just how much Brian's deft touch informs the final product, and kept it from veering into the kind of suspect territory in which -- on this live recording at least -- the other Beach Boys happily set up camp.
Aha, I've caught you, Keith Fullerton Whitman! Not a Don Ellis record, but rather, the opening movement of Alois Hába's Suite for 4 trombones in quarter-tone system, Op. 72. It's sped up by around 135%, which makes them sound like trumpets. (I always thought that was interesting, the way instruments transform into their relatives when pitch-shifted -- i.e., speed up a tenor sax, it sounds like an alto; speed it up more, it sounds remarkably like a soprano; slow it down, and it sounds like a bari.) Transposing it up is a nice effect, and works well; in contrast to what I wrote back then, the fact that Hrvatski didn't actually pitch-shift the sample himself (to create the quarter-tone effect) doesn't really bother me.
(One of the trombone players is named Karel Kucera! Only a slight change in his first name, and you'd have "By day, I frustrate Andre Agassi; by night, I play quarter-tones. It's a nice life, you know?")
Current music: Alois Hába - Centenary
January 6, 2004 (link)
This page is also interesting, if a bit odd with its ratings and grades.
Various bits and pieces:
I am now the #1 search on Google for the phrase "tadpole in a jar". I think it's for moments like these that the word "nonplussed" was invented.
I find myself with a craving to hear Paul McCartney's demo for "Junk", which I remember (from the third volume of the Beatles Anthology) as being very good.
This page has some interesting analyses of Ringo's drumming on the various Beatles albums, with a nice story I hadn't heard about the recording of "Hey Jude". One quibble: the bridge of "Here Comes the Sun" isn't in 11/8 per se, it's in 11/8 + 4/4 + 7/8. Hard to imagine Ringo pulling that one off, but apparently he did! I guess if he could handle "She Said She Said" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun", he could probably manage "Here Comes the Sun", which has time changes that look trickier on paper, but are in a way more intuitive.
Speaking of tricky time signatures, if you like, check out this MP3 that Morgan and I made in mid-November. Like I said to a friend recently, it's "more than a demo, less than a finished song". It doesn't have an official title yet.
Current music: The Beatles - Let It Be...Naked (Dumb title, annoying copy protection, nice new mixes, pretty good CD.)
January 3, 2004 (link)
I noticed the other day that, though I was almost completely wrong on the men's side, I just about nailed it on the women's side (except for the winner).
Now that Otis Fodder's 365 Days Project is over, you might want to check out 52 Weeks from Dutch music educator Jan Turkenburg. It'd be too facile to call it a nederlandse versie of 365 Days -- it's got a flavor all its own -- but folks who enjoyed that project would, I suspect, be likely to enjoy this as well.
STICK IT OUT!
SPIT IT OUT!
Current music: Rolling Stones - "Miss You (12" single version)"
January 1, 2004 (link)
Kip Winger, the former lead singer from that esteemed band of the same surname, asks:
"Like, what does it mean when Robert Plant said, 'A tadpole in a jar?'"
And you know, I had the same question, prompted by reading this thread where that lyric was cited as one of Led Zeppelin's all-time worst. (It's from "Dancing Days", the first track off Side Two of the Houses of the Holy album.)
So I did some poking around, and I couldn't find much of anything except this:
Robert then delivers one of his most humorous lines of all time, as we all witnessed on DG a short spell back, when someone (one of our English brethren?) posted the true meaning for all those not in the know [...] Thanks to whoever posted that I can never quite listen to this song the same way again... I die laughing now!
That confirmed what I thought -- that the line wasn't meaningless hippie nonsense, but was rather some kind of British in-joke, perhaps along the same lines as Pink Floyd's Ummagumma (not to mention "Up the Khyber"). But unfortunately, it didn't spell out the reference being made!
Five years ago, I probably would've given up there, but thanks to Google -- well, that, and the slightly obsessive frame of mind that tends to come upon me when I'm presented with a secret just barely out of reach -- I found, to my pleasant surprise, an alternate archive. And I figured, "Well, the archives are all in compressed format...it'll be a pain in the butt...but hey, it's New Year's Day, I'm home sick with a cold, I've been busy applying to schools and trying to get stuff done: I'll indulge myself. Besides, once they're unzipped, I just have to do a BBEdit Lite search on 'tadpole', so it should be easy to find the right post."
So after a few minutes of downloading, and fiddling with my unzipping program to get it to batch-process the ZIP files, I found my answer in digest #1215, which I now share with you -- a secret that appears to be available nowhere else on the web (in easily-readable form, anyway):
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 1996 13:51:49 +0400
Maybe I need a new tagline?
Eyes That Can See in the Dark: bringing you the dirty secrets of rock music!
(I'm going to start saying "tadpole in a jar" all the time.)
By the way, isn't John Paul Jones' solo on "No Quarter" one of the loveliest things ever? It's easily among my favorite rock piano solos of all time. If I understand correctly, the final backing track on "No Quarter" was just Take 3, which is impressively low -- at least by comparison with, say, the Beatles or the Beach Boys. (The very nice outtake on my Waldo disc was, I think, Take 1.) With the (slight) exception of "D'yer Maker", I love Houses of the Holy -- it's pretty much always been my favorite Led Zeppelin album.
By contrast, I've been totally unable to get into Physical Graffiti, which I picked up about a year and a half ago and have listened to three or four times since. I don't really understand why, exactly, but other than "Trampled Underfoot" and a couple other songs, it just doesn't do anything for me at all. Perhaps it's that it has the sound, to me, of a band that's become self-conscious; many of the tracks feel like a deliberate effort to simplify and strip down, but it feels somehow contrived and heavy-handed, lacking many of the things I like most about LZ.
Current music: Led Zeppelin -- Houses of the Holy
Euripides III, ed. Richmond Lattimore and David Grene