March 31, 2002 (link)
If the Lord of the Rings movie drinking game is to down a shot every time there's a close-up of the ring, then the Eyes That Can See in the Dark drinking game is probably to have one every time I mention Nintendo / Super Nintendo music.
Another thing about Indian classical music: if I'm not mistaken (and if I'm remembering my Emotion and Meaning in Music correctly), the fourth is a normative sonority, which is often misleading to Western ears. In other words, the harmony C - F, with C on the bottom, will often be heard by Westerners as an inversion of the fifth, F - C, which of course is the fundamental interval in Western tonal music. However, that's not correct in Indian classical -- the C really is the root in that situation, and should be heard as the tonic, so a Westerner's aural tendency to "flip it around" is something that needs to be overcome to properly appreciate the harmonic structure of the piece in question.
Atom Heart's Dots is a nice little album. If I'd been following Atom Heart's career back when his best releases (on Rather Interesting) were coming out, I would've been mystified and disappointed when some of his more recent stuff had emerged -- after putting out a great, great album like Flowerhead it's hard to understand a jump to Ondas, much less Dropshadow Disease. But since I'm coming at all of this stuff several years after the fact, I just pick and choose the good releases, and ignore the ones that don't interest me. Anyway, this disc is not on a par with Flowerhead, but it's still pleasant listening. Most of the album focuses on two or three similar sounds -- the main one is a bit like a cross between a Wurlitzer electric piano and a Casio version thereof -- which are used in a somewhat (but not really) pointillistic manner (hence the title) to paint fairly laid-back, beatless ambient grooves. It's nothing earthshaking, but I enjoy it -- it doesn't do anything I don't like, and if it doesn't have that transcendent quality that great ambient music can have, it's still a pleasing sixty-something minutes of music, slightly reminiscent of old-school Super Nintendo music (as is so much of the ambient music I like).
current music: Atom Heart - Dots
March 30, 2002 (link)
This Ambient Systems Initialized comp is pleasing me in much the same way that Invisible Soundtracks: Macro 2 did a few months back. Especially nice are "Frame" by Shuttle 358 and "Stretch" by Dietrich Schoenemann. I could maybe do without the vocal sample on the latter, but the keyboard sound and harmonies are really nice.
I downloaded a ton of MP3s of recordings of Indian classical music, all taken from the archives of a radio station who, I'm guessing, decided to broadcast some sort of Indian classical music marathon. Whatever the case is, they're great -- well-recorded, well-played -- and are simultaneously reminding me of how much I enjoy the music, and yet how little I understand it, technically speaking. I remember, when I first started listening to jazz, how I had some difficulty getting a handle on the language -- it never sounded alien or anything like that, but I didn't have any kind of deep grasp of the vocabulary and had a hard time telling a good solo from a bad solo (for example). Here, the problem feels more structural -- I suppose because I simply don't know the talas, or rhythmic structures, being used, and they don't really seem to be the kind of thing you can "kind of" know, or that you can pick up by ear without specific effort. I've attended performances where the talas were explicitly spelled out, and generally found that I could easily follow them (albeit in terms that might not be entirely correct -- i.e. saying "this is in five" might not be as accurate as saying "this is 3 + 2 + 2 + 3", in much the same way as saying "swing is in 12/8" is a sort-of-true, but misleading statement). On the other hand, there seem to be very specific rhythmic formulae that seem to be triggered by things that happen in the improvisations; time and again I've heard a sitar player (or veena, etc.) and a tabla player suddenly hit a cadential rhythm together that I had no idea was coming, but which is nailed in a way and with a precision that makes it clear that there must have been some specific cue that indicated a particular cadential formula. It almost reminds me of Phish's codes, but obviously here it's far more organically integrated into the music -- I doubt that there are many Indian music ensembles who use Bollywood/fusion quotations to pull off unison lines, but you never know.
Speaking of cues, I think Tony Williams "dut-da-dut-da-dut" rhythm at the end of his solo on "Seven Steps to Heaven", from the Carnegie Hall live album, is maybe one of the greatest of its kind, ever. I'd love to have a group like that, where everyone was listening so well, knew each other's playing so well, and was so sharp that such a tiny, easily-missed fragment of drum hits (was it completely spontaneous, or a known cue?) could have everyone landing perfectly on the one, with no one standing around looking confused or having to spell it out (dumb it down) for safety.
current music: Funkadelic - America Eats Its Young (Why didn't anyone tell me that Funkadelic was so much better than Parliament? Though actually, I think a couple people mentioned it...)
March 27, 2002 (link)
On to the fourth entry in my Deep Chill Network review project. Unfortunately, the tracks I reviewed in this installment are probably the weakest of the bunch; my apologies to DCN and to Dark Duck in advance for having to give them a negative review here.
Well, I've now reviewed all of the tracks that were up when I originally started this project -- but since I began, they've added ten more, nearly doubling the selection! My inclination is to just keep plowing ahead, but there's a lot of other music I want to get to.
"Rain in Summer" by Y. Bhekhirst: what to make of this, which has been described as "wonderfully awful" and "like a demented King Crimson loop"? I found it, and many other oddities, here. I use a Google cache for that link because the page owner has apparently switched over to streaming audio, and while the downloadable files are still on the server, they're no longer linked by the current version of the page. Other favorites on the page include Lavendar [sic] Jane's "Lesbians" and Martin Mechanic's "Fell in Love with an Older Guy". However, beware of Li'l Markie's "Diary of an Unborn Child", which is exceedingly disturbing (and I say that in all seriousness).
March 18, 2002 (link)
Not only is the Tsunamin Audio Prism album by Seamonster1 back up for download at their site, but now they've also got their previous album, You May Unfasten Your Seatbelts, up as well! Excellent -- I've been looking forward to hearing more from them for quite a while.
March 11, 2002 (link)
Have I written about the mono mix of Piper at the Gates of Dawn before? If you're a fan of the album you should definitely check it out at some point; unlike the stereo mix, which was done by the producers, Syd and the band did the mono mix themselves, and the differences, while sometimes subtle, are not insignificant. "Interstellar Overdrive" is perhaps the most obvious one: the back-and-forth panning at the end is gone, of course, but the mix at the beginning is also quite different, with lots of organ that isn't there on the stereo version. On the whole I find that the mono mix generally sounds more raw and powerful, while the stereo mix sounds more polished and clean -- not surprising, really, given the circumstances. A song I don't normally like, "Chapter 24", sounds noticeably more appealing on the mono mix, whereas "Bike" is more to my taste on the stereo mix and seems to lose some of its charm in the mono version. In any event, I'm not normally one for amassing alternate versions of albums (especially the endless remasters of the Pink Floyd back catalog, precious few of which ever have any unreleased material), but this one is worth picking up.
Indeed you must check out this MP3 of W. L. Horning's Rockin' and Rollin', which is hosted at the MP3 page of the American Song-Poem Music Archives. Perhaps it loses its impact on repeated listening, but it still needs to be heard. "Ohhhh!"
March 2, 2002 (link)
I'll try to review some more of these tracks soon. And if you haven't yet, do go and have a listen if you're at all partial to ambient music.
I thought of another one, although this one's a bit subtler: at 10:12 or so in "The End" by the Doors, right at the end of the big instrumental climax of the song, the pitch of everything jumps up a bit. (Listen especially for the organ, which slides up about 20-25 cents.) If my ears are correct, things slide back down at about 10:32. Who knows what was behind that one: perhaps all that Oedipal mayhem caused a mild power loss, slowing the reels ever so slightly (and thus raising the pitch of the recording on the master tape) for about twenty seconds.
March 1, 2002 (link)
In the recent past, my Discman (a Magnavox, whose model number is something like AZ 7261/17) has done two very odd and intriguing things:
Having spent a fair amount of time on trains lately, I've been listening to said Discman more than usual. On the last leg of my trip back from New York, exhausted and anxious to get home, I found myself enjoying Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii quite a lot. What a tremendous version of "A Saucerful of Secrets" that is, with those huge chorale-like chords crashing down in the "Celestial Voices" section and, at the end, Gilmour's voice soaring over the top of it. It quite literally gave me the chills.
(While I'm on the topic of my trip to New York: at the risk of sounding like Dido or that song about changing lanes -- to the guy in Trenton who found me and gave me the tickets I inadvertently left in the NJT machine, THANK YOU. I wish I'd gotten your name, as I didn't figure out what you were on about until after you'd walked away -- I thought you were trying to sell me extra tickets or something. Odds are you'll never read this, but like Sol Rosenberg says, "you nevah, nevah know." Besides which, you not only saved my ass, but also that of the woman I was ostensibly trying to help!)
I also pulled out the July 2, 1977 Madison Square Garden concert, as immortalized on the Welcome to the Machine bootleg, which is an old favorite that I traded away long ago and only recently recovered (albeit on CDR instead of the pressed CD I used to have). Any time Pink Floyd can find an excuse to let Nick Mason do his "lazy eighths", like on the jam section in "Echoes" from Pompeii or on "Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts VI-IX" on this disc, good things usually happen. On the other hand, Nick's drumming on the early verses of that same Pompeii "Echoes" wasn't sitting well with me at all. Somehow he just sounded like a bad rock-ballad drummer, the incongruity of which pretty much spoiled any chance for the song to have the ethereal/hymnal quality that can make it so moving when it works.
More Pink Floyd news: a rough mix/demo tape for The Final Cut has surfaced, and has been released by Free Range Pigs under the title "The Final Cutting". These are from the actual sessions for the album, so it's much closer to the final version than last year's Wall demos (which really were demos and didn't, to my knowledge, contain any recordings that were actually used on the album as released). But there are still important differences -- and, from what I've heard so far, just about everything that got changed was a change for the better. For instance, one of the things I find most effective about the The Final Cut is its abundance of places where lines are omitted, obscured, truncated, or otherwise concealed  -- something which gives it a bit of a feeling of "things left unsaid", like there are secrets hinted at but never quite voiced (a theme which, by the way, is explicitly brought up in the album's title track). There are a few lines to "Your Possible Pasts" in the lyric sheet, in the album's liner notes, that are simply absent from the recording, and another song, "The Hero's Return", originally had a much longer coda that was omitted from the LP. On the rough cut/demo, these sections are present, and generally, the songs are the worse for them.
Even more crucial is the change in the treatment of the line "And if I'm in/I'll tell you what's behind the wall" from the album's title track. On the released LP, the end of the line is cut off by a shotgun blast, which also cuts the meter of that bar by a beat (to 3/4) and serves nicely to add a little rhythmic variety. I didn't really realize how effective a device it was until I heard the demo version; you really miss the 3/4 bar -- without it, the song just plods -- and the line, when sung in full, falls painfully flat. It's all to Waters' credit that he managed to hear what the song needed; knowing how and when to ratchet up the tension in a piece of music is a huge part of composition and songwriting, and here at least, Roger made what I think is a rather brilliant choice. The song is one of the album's best and most moving, but I suspect I wouldn't feel the same way if these changes hadn't been made to the released version.
I was listening to BBC Radio One over the Internet today, and heard a mix that caught my ear. I didn't think that much of the melody or lyrics, but the harmonies and production seemed to have a bit of spark to them. Turns out it was "Point of View", by DB Boulevard. Can't say I know anything about them, but it was nice to hear something on the radio that both engaged me and wasn't written last millennium. (Take that, ye who would paint me with the moldy-fig brush!)
According to the graffiti in North Philadelphia, someone out there with a can of spray paint has apparently chosen the tag "Skifo". I wonder if they know that "schifo" is Italian for "disgusting"? (Actually, it's worse than that -- it basically means "crap", if I'm not mistaken.) Then again, some people apparently go through life with the name, so...
 (And I'm sure someone reading this is probably thinking something along the lines of "Yes, and the less we hear of Roger Waters' dour, preachy self-indulgence the better, so every little word that gets left out helps". But though his later work doesn't do much for me, I've always found that, on The Final Cut, the ingredients gel into what is, for me, a convincing and moving work. It's a long-standing joke -- but hardly far from the truth! -- to say that The Final Cut is Waters' best solo album.)
Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
The Once and Future King, T.H. White
The Computer Connection, Alfred Bester
Richard II, Shakespeare