March 28, 2003 (link)
Damo's getting dangerously close to Shooby Taylor territory here, on "Soup"...
By the way, in the transcription, there are two mistakes -- a missing courtesy accidental in bar 6, and a half note in bar 3 of the soprano sax melody (on page 2) that should be a dotted quarter.
current music: Can -- "Soup", then "I'm So Green"
March 27, 2003 (link)
A day late, but so it goes: as a birthday present to these pages -- and to all of you! -- here's a transcription of the song that gave this site its name. (Page One, Page Two.) I transcribed it back in 1998, for my senior concert at college; it was one of six or seven songs I played as part of a jazz trio/quartet/quintet, as the third and final part of the show. (The first and second were compositions of mine -- some piano pieces and an electronic piece, respectively.) While going through my files earlier, I came across the music I'd prepared for the concert in a folder I'd forgotten, and thought scanning and uploading the song would be a fitting way to mark the two-year anniversary. I wonder what Eberhard Weber would think of the transcription (hopefully I won't find out by way of a cease-and-desist letter!), and how close it is to the original score. One of my longer-term projects is to transcribe Rainer Brüninghaus's solo from the song, but that'll have to wait until I get a CD of it -- right now I only have it on tape.
By the way, another one of the songs we played was "Right Off" from Jack Johnson, which I was thinking about today and which I've talked about before.
I've been on a huge Can kick lately, to the point that there are times when I feel like there's almost nothing else I want to listen to. It really only comes down to a handful of songs -- "Oh Yeah", "Mother Sky", "One More Night", and especially "Halleluwah" -- though there are other candidates I think I might get into, like "Vitamin C" and "Mushroom". As you can tell, the urge is pretty much exclusively confined to the Damo Suzuki era, though on the other hand, I downloaded an MP3 of an early version of "Father Cannot Yell" [I think] from Unopened that, despite terrible sound, had a kinetic energy I found appealing, especially towards the end where Malcolm Mooney did some sort of rhythmic breathing/grunting thing that worked pretty well. And I'm definitely a little more open to Mooney than I used to be -- when I first heard Monster Movie, I didn't like it at all, and found his freeform ranting to be vaguely embarrassing at best. (I have a very cynical thought about why I've warmed up to him a bit, but I'll leave that one out for the moment.)
Anyway, I don't know exactly what's put me on this kick, though there are a few definite cues I can point to -- being told by Mike to check out Tago Mago, borrowing Mark's copy of the Anthology, downloading a live bootleg with a great version of "Halleluwah", and so forth. All of these things have pretty much happened since the start of the year, though, and I've had MP3s of Monster Movie and a couple tracks from Tago Mago kicking around for a long time now -- since mid-2000 or so, I think, or early 2001 at the latest -- but never really dove into them (if anything I made a point of not doing so, for some reason). I think learning a bit more about the band helped, as did getting to hear some tracks where Jaki Liebezeit gets the chance to show what a fantastic drummer he is. If Eric Taylor of Seely hasn't spent some serious study time with Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi, I'll be very surprised -- they're certainly not clones of each other, but there's something about Liebezeit's touch on the snare that reminds me of Eric Taylor's playing, and vice versa. (Of course, they've probably both in turn been listening to James Brown, Jack DeJohnette, Roy Haynes, and so forth...)
I'm also intrigued by the idea of having a "wild card" in a band: taking a group of technically proficient and basically well-grounded musicians, and sticking someone like Damo Suzuki in the midst of them -- an unpredictable, cryptic figure whose presence adds a strong element of chance and mystery to the dynamic. It's funny, because Suzuki in some sense embodies a lot of things I often have a problem with -- apparent lack of technical knowledge, use of deliberately meaningless (or hopelessly elliptical) lyrics, and from what I've read, a somewhat Cage-like attitude towards improvisation and the process of music-making. But in this context I think he works perfectly, in part because the contrast between him and the rest of the band is so striking, but also because he has an attractive musical intuition and an uncanny sense of timing and phrasing: he's not always spot-on, but when he is, it's perfect, and he almost never gets in the way. Whereas with Mooney, I found myself thinking (when I first heard Monster Movie) "Gee, I might really like this music if it weren't for this guy ranting..." and in any event even those who prefer Mooney to Suzuki would no doubt have to concede that he dominated his recordings with Can in a way that Suzuki -- who, much of the time, was in effect a fifth instrumentalist -- never did.
So I walk around town with "Halleluwah", the Krautrock "Freebird", playing in my head. And in fact I wish I were playing it -- I'd love to be on stage with that bassline under my fingers, in front of a spellbound audience while in the midst of everything, a wild-eyed Suzuki-like figure plays the part of the mad, singing oracle. I'm sure I'll move on to other music before long -- I was listening to lots of Kraftwerk not that long ago, but I've barely listened to any in the last month or two. But for now: "Searching for my brother, yes I am!"
current music: Can -- "One More Night"
March 19, 2003 (link)
So Rockoverlondon was down for 10 or 11 days, thanks to some rather questionable behavior on the part of our site host, Doteasy. At least anyone who wanted to see my site could still stop by the Tripod mirror -- not that it really matters all that much, since I haven't updated in over two weeks!
I heard a song on the radio today by the New Pornographers, "The Laws Have Changed", that caught my ear. That vein of indie-pop isn't usually one I have good luck with, so it was nice to hear something that worked for me, though it's a little hard to quantify exactly why it did -- which, I suppose, is a good reason to try to do just that: I like the guitar countermelody that starts it out. I like the upward leap in the hook the guy sings -- the melody is spot-on and goes perfectly with the instrumental parts. (The gaps in it remind me of something -- I want to say gamelan tuning, but that's not quite it, though it has a little bit of that scale-with-notes-left-out quality. Maybe the Who, a bit? "Substitute"?) I like the way that, after it gets loud and both vocalist are singing, it thins out a bit. And I really like the harmonic shift at the start of the bridge -- that sidestep into the C#m7 / F#7 progression sounds like something the Beatles would do, and the bass part there, high up on the neck, is a bit McCartney-ish at that. The falsetto singing there is nice too. The DJ on the radio station said it was from an album won't be released until May, but apparently it's around on the file sharing networks.
(Heh, I hadn't yet read this on the Matador site when I wrote that: "This record is fantastically good, and we challenge you to find the music section without a direct link and download their MP3 to confirm it. Hell, find it on the filesharing services. It's that great." Good on them! I was already considering getting this album when it comes out, just on a lark; after reading that, I've decided I'll definitely buy it.)
In the comments to this Wilwheaton.net entry about the new game at Homestarrunner.com, "Trogdor" -- which is pretty great, though I wish it had a few more bells and whistles: how about a Trogdor 2, a few months down the road? -- I found a link to this, which put a smile on my face. Really nicely done, with pretty music and a wonderful sense of whimsy and playfulness. The animation is great, too; I love the way he takes off and lands -- it makes it seem completely natural, and really tempts you into believing that you too can fly ("Oh, that's how you do it")! (Tangentially, if the movie seems slow, try turning the quality down to "low" -- it looks the same, and runs much faster.) Someone wrote that it reminded them of old Hypercard games, and certainly there's something very compact-Mac about the whole thing, though I doubt there was anything quite this good running on anyone's SE/30 back in the day (but I could be wrong!). It makes me happy that people like this guy, and the Brothers Chaps, are using Flash to recreate the feeling of old-school videogames and computers. I think it's an idiom that deserves many more years of exploration and play (though I still think the peak era for video game music was probably the early years of the SNES).
current music: The New Pornographers -- "The Laws Have Changed" (Oh, and also -- a chess reference never hurts. I'm easy that way.)
March 3, 2003 (link)
Amazing. Be sure in particular to check out the Led Zeppelin, if you've never heard it before: how can you resist lines like "The one whose little path would make me sad...there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan"? As I told J., it sounds like a cross between Satan, an abusive parent, and a bunny rabbit!
Speaking of Led Zeppelin, I've been listening to some great outtakes of "No Quarter": amazing stuff. I always more or less known that John Bonham was a good drummer, but it's only in the last few years that I've realized, no, he was an unbelievable drummer. He had remarkable command of his instrument, and got such an unmistakable, huge, kinetic sound out of it -- how many drummers are so easy to recognize? He hits hard as hell, sure, but there's also a ferocious intelligence (and a playful wit) behind his best playing. In one of the earlier takes of "No Quarter", partway through the song, Bonham and John Paul Jones embark on a two-minute duet for electric piano and drums. They start in near-ambient territory, and gradually move into a more funk-inflected groove -- in both cases making me wish that the sections in question went on for ten minutes each, instead of thirty seconds. Then Bonzo starts dropping in these unpredictable accents, playing tricks with the meter of the song and shifting the apparent downbeat; it's tricky enough that, unless I'm counting or playing along with them, I almost always lose the one. (To his credit, John Paul Jones doesn't miss a beat.)
current music: Yes -- "Every Little Thing"
March 2, 2003 (link)
Will we ever unravel the riddle of Y. Bhekhirst and his Hot in the Airport album? I don't know, but in the meantime, devotees of his unusual, cryptic music can go here for a discussion that's just beginning, or to empty-handed.com for some thoughts from late last year. (For the record, my tape doesn't have any underlining in blue ball-point pen that I've noticed.)
And if you've never heard a thing by Y. Bhekhirst, the WFMU website has a bunch of tracks included in their archives of various radio shows; you might start here -- cue the RealAudio file up to 2:36:19 to hear the album's title track. However, beware: it's dangerously catchy, and you'll almost definitely get it stuck in your head for at least a day or two. (You used to be able to listen to it on the Incorrect Music audio files page, but that's full of broken links now.) Between that and Uncle Krinkly, you can hear more than half of the tracks on the album.
(And by the way, I'm still wondering about this: very interesting, but what's the B-side, and who's Al Phool?)
current music: Mapstation -- "I Begin To Know The Map"
The Young Visiters [sic], Daisy Ashford