Eyes That Can See in the Dark

a music journal

September 26, 2002 (link)

11:58 PM

Lots of great listening experiences tonight. After sneaking next door for ten or fifteen minutes to catch some of a solo concert (of sorts) given by a local musician, I came back and, for some reason, found myself bent on looking into the Ogg Vorbis audio format. (For those who aren't familiar with it, a rough analogy might be that Ogg Vorbis is to MP3 what Linux is to Windows: Ogg is free, performs better under difficult conditions, and is far less popular. Actually, the analogy is surprisingly apt! Ogg is probably a better format, but has little change of ever challenging the ubiquity of MP3, except in certain niche markets like video game sound, in which it could conceivably make a strong showing.)

The Ogg download page links three Ogg-capable players for Mac OS. (Surprisingly, SoundApp isn't among them. Has Franke just given up on the project? His instruction to us to check back for some "important announcements" is more than half a year old. If he has stopped developing it, that'd be a shame, as it's a great little player.) The first one I tried, Unsanity Echo, led me to a download link which, when I clicked on it, offered me an opportunity to leave feedback about any problems I might have downloading -- but gave me no link to actually download the product. Then I tried Macamp, which I've used before, but which was miserably unsuccessful at playing .ogg files -- it just stuttered and farted, emitting clicks and pops but no music, and acted like it was going to crash the computer.

I also had tried Audion before (a year or two ago), and hadn't been particularly impressed, but version 3.0 is a different story. It handled the .ogg file I'd downloaded with no trouble, and managed to deal pretty well with most of the formats offered in the xiph.org listening tests -- tests which, by the way, corroborated what I'd already heard: namely, that Ogg Vorbis performs remarkably well at low bitrates (64kbps), and is more or less comparable to a good MP3 at higher ones. (At 64kbps, it sounds very nearly as good as a 128kbps MP3, and far better than a 64kbps MP3.) Of course, I'd need to spend a lot more time, and be a lot more rigorous in my listening, to get a really clear sense of the results -- and it wouldn't surprise me if the Ogg Vorbis format turned out to be excessively trebly on a lot of material, as it seems to have a very lively top end, but may in the long run come off as artificially bright (it was hard to tell from the material given). But I was definitely impressed, and it's unequivocally superior to any 64kbps MP3 I've ever heard.

I was also favorably impressed with the sound quality in Audion, and decided to play with it a bit more. I fired up a few tracks of mine, and they seemed to sound cleaner and more detailed than they normally do. (My usual players are SoundApp and iTunes). On the other hand, it could've just been that I was playing it louder than usual, too. Then I decided to check out the visual plug-ins; since no default visuals come with the player, I downloaded G-Force and WhiteCap from their links on the Audion site. I had to finagle with my computer a bit to get things to work properly; I'm having some sort of problem with a handful of applications, in which said apps will pause every 5-6 seconds for about a quarter of a second, which is quite annoying if you're playing a video game (RockNES) or watching a visual (Audion). I think it's caused by my DSL -- I suspect it's polling my Ethernet connection and thereby tying up the CPU, and the problem goes away when I disable the relevant extensions -- but why it bothers these programs and (seemingly) not others is a mystery to me.

After a couple false starts, things were up and running, and I was treated to a pleasure I don't think I've ever had before -- namely, my own music getting the "multimedia treatment". I'm a sucker for these kinds of computer graphics, and back seven years ago or so, from time to time I used to sit in front of the IIfx in my college's electronic music studio, running an old shareware screensaver that used vaguely similar effects, while listening to John Chowning or Pink Floyd or Debussy and watching the visuals. But these are of course on a whole different level, and are probably the most impressive of their kind I've ever seen -- enough so that I decided to turn off all the lights, and conceal my computer's "running lights", to give them my full visual attention. I believe G-Force is a relative of the visual that came with iTunes 1.0 on H.'s computer (and it's compatible with iTunes as well, as I recall), but it's definitely a cut above it, with creative and extremely attractive effects that are, apparently, married to some well-written algorithms: the visuals respond to the music in interesting and complex ways, and seem to react differently to different sounds, suggesting that there is a frequency-based component to their behavior (rather than just pure amplitude/dynamics).

Since iTunes 2.0 and later won't run on my computer -- I use Mac OS 8.6, and the patch enabling iTunes 1.x to run under 8.6 doesn't work with any later versions -- I've never had an MP3 player that could do crossfades. Audion does them nicely (though it restricts you to 5 or 10 second crossfades, and only appears to work globally -- i.e. all songs in your playlist have the same transition), and the effect on my own music was quite attractive (I almost wrote "the end of one piece became the beginning of the next" -- well, duh). So on a whim, I decided to set up a playlist made up of albums I'd never really heard before, but that I figured would segue together in an interesting way, based on what little I knew about them:

  • A Short Apnea - Illu ogod ellat rhagedia
  • Alvin Lucier - Silver Streetcar
  • Christina Kübisch - Vier Stücke
  • Coil - Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1
  • Experimental Audio Research - The Köner Experiment
  • Rafael Toral - Chasing Sonic Booms
  • The Hototogisu - The White Wind of Autumn
  • David Behrman - On the Other Ocean
  • Eric Aldea - Saturno o Cipolla

I'd heard about half of these artists -- Coil on Brainwashed radio a while back; Lucier through his "I Am Sitting In a Room", which I quite like; Kübisch's "Dreaming of a Major Third"; and some piece by Toral whose details I don't recall. As far as I know, I'd never heard the others.

I set up the playlist and repeatedly hit "Randomize" until it fulfilled my two main criteria -- first, that it not start with any extremely long pieces, and second, that a Coil track was near the beginning. (I figured, since I already had the lights out, I ought to be sure of hearing at least one song designed for the purpose, right?) Other than that, I paid as little attention as possible to the playlist order, trying to maximize the surprise/I-don't-know-what's-coming-next factor. I fired up the visual, started the playlist, and listened for about an hour (before turning off the visual), during which time I heard:

  1. Eric Aldea - "Track 7"
  2. Coil - "Broccoli"
  3. Experimental Audio Research - "6"
  4. Coil - "Red Queen"
  5. Eric Aldea - "Track 4"
  6. Experimental Audio Research - "8"
  7. Coil - "Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night"
  8. Christina Kübisch - "Vocrolls II"

All in all, I took a lot of pleasure in it, especially at the beginning -- it's been a long time since I've felt that fully immersed in my listening, with unfamiliar music no less. It seems strange that adding a visual would make me feel as though I were listening more "completely", and yet that's exactly how it did feel: it produced in me a kind of patience, and a suspension of disbelief, that I'm not able to access nearly as often as I'd like. I found myself fully engaged by the narrative and sonic texture of each piece, and more able than usual to refrain from prematurely dwelling on questions of value, worth, and authorial intent. I'm certainly willing to concede that these experiences were heightened by the choice of music -- indeed, insofar as I was able, I made my selections on the basis of trying to facilitate such an experience. But there's something about this particular combination that works very well for me; as I've had similar feelings with totally different music (Ravel, Pink Floyd, Low) but a similar visual stimulus (the iTunes visual), I think it's just something about the non-representational visual that works for me. It's almost as though, by entertaining my eyes, my ears and brain are left to more fully engage with the music: are my eyes somehow the vehicle of my more proscriptive critical faculties? Hard to say.

As for the playlist itself, there were lots of nice moments. The crossfades made a big difference, giving the whole thing a feeling of unity -- or at least integration -- that made it much easier to listen continuously (rather than episodically) and with patience. As it turned out, I could tell when the crossfade to the next track was about to begin -- the visual would hesitate for a split-second, and my CD drive would rattle faintly -- but it didn't detract from the overall effect (particularly since I didn't know what I was listening to, nor what track was coming next, how long it would be, etc.). It's funny that the section I listened to with the visual was so completely dominated by those three artists; given the good results, perhaps it was serendipity, though I've continued to listen since beginning this post and, though the roster has varied a bit more, the good results have continued. Certainly I was impressed, as I listened, by how convincing a sense of unity I was getting from a randomized playlist; all the transitions were plausible and felt natural, and some were spot-on (as I recall, the segue between Aldea's "Track 4" and EAR's "8" was just about perfectly in tempo, with the chirping rhythm in the former transforming into the bass drum in the latter). If I were to turn this into a mix CD, the Kübisch would make a perfect way to end it -- it's intricate, quiet, structurally interesting (or at least engaging), and nicely articulates the connection between experimental music/electroacoustic composition and the kind of things that bands like Coil are trying to do.

current music: At one point, Eric Aldea - "Track 3"; now, as I finish this, Rafael Toral -- "Skyrocket"

(Comments for September 26, 2002)

September 21, 2002 (link)

3:28 PM

In high school, when I still had designs on becoming a professional jazz musician, The Real Book (the old one, not the legal one) was basically my frame of reference for the jazz literature. If it was in there, I assumed that it was a standard (of sorts) that had won a place in the repertoire -- or in any event that someone had deemed it an Important enough song that it merited inclusion, and the attention of future generations. So one of my goals was to learn every song in the Real Book, confident that if I were to do so, I'd be familiar with a body of work that more or less constituted the heart of the jazz canon. (Actually, I'm painting myself as much more naive than I was; certainly I realized from early on that the Real Book had mistakes -- sometimes really boneheaded ones -- and that it omitted plenty of great songs, not to mention more than a few real standards like "Stardust", "Perdido", and "Laura", though to be fair those particular ones showed up in Volume Two). So to some extent, the inclusion of all those ECM-school tunes by Gary Burton, Steve Swallow, Pat Metheny, etc., fostered a belief in me that their work was considered some of the most vital/innovative/significant music in the seventies. Of course, now I know that Metheny and other Berklee students wrote the damn thing, so of course their songs were in there! (Tangentially, has anyone ever thanked Pat Metheny for his work? Illegal or not, that book was a watershed moment in jazz education, and its inclusion of non-traditional, "modern" jazz compositions almost definitely had a profound effect on a lot of young musicians.) It's interesting to speculate whether Metheny and company prepared their own legacy, since their work, as it happens, was indeed some of the most interesting jazz in the '70s; whenever I did track down the albums that any of those tunes came from, like Bright Size Life or Crystal Silence, I was almost always thoroughly impressed. Like David Bowie -- who acted as though he were already a superstar in order to become one -- did putting their songs in the Real Book serve as a way to heighten a reputation that was, at the time, still under construction? Did others, like me, assume they were important because they were in the Real Book? I'm inclined to think it wasn't a major factor -- and it never could've been sustained if the music hadn't been up to par -- but I also doubt I was the only one swayed.

It quickly became obvious, though, that my efforts (to learn every song) weren't going to go anywhere. Some songs didn't make much sense without other parts, and couldn't really be learned on one's own. Other songs were notated in ways that made them seem random or nonsensical until you heard the album version, which would often embellish or elaborate the written lines in a way that connected the musical dots: Steve Swallow's "Arise, Her Eyes" sounds totally natural and lucid on Crystal Silence, but the chart makes the song seem fragmentary and disjointed. And some songs just didn't seem to make any sense, like "Hotel Hello", which is almost entirely made up of tied whole notes! Probably the most frequent problem, though, would be songs that went out of my range. Chick Corea songs were particularly prone to this -- for a piano player, a jumping melody that hangs out above the staff is trivial to play, and for a sax player, it's usually feasible, but for a trumpet player, it's a nightmare, unplayable for any but the most technically proficient.

When I changed over to bass in college, my opportunities to play jazz were somewhat less regular at first, but eventually a decent ensemble formed and I got to know some songs I had never tried as a trumpeter -- for instance, Corea's "500 Miles High", the melody to which spans over two octaves and would sound terribly awkward on the trumpet even if I could've played it! That was fun, but when I left college, the opportunities to play jazz ended, pretty much completely. There aren't many professional opportunities for even the best local jazz musicians, let alone a fair-to-middling one like me, and most of them play an exceedingly conservative repertoire: it's not a universe that gets me very excited. I'd love to have a band that was fluent in jazz without being a jazz band per se (though the dangers of falling into a "Magilla" trap are considerable), but so far all of my Philadelphia band dreams have foundered on the Scylla and Charybdis of laziness and poverty.

When I got my piano, though, I figured I ought to use it, and my painfully inadequate chops make playing classical music pretty much an exercise in futility. So I've taken to setting my Real Book out on the piano and running through some of the tunes I've never tried, and have never heard. To my surprise, I can sight-read many of them, or at least do a reasonable job of faking it, enough so that playing them isn't the dissatisfying experience it would be on trumpet or bass. I don't really harbor the illusion anymore that knowing the songs in The Real Book will somehow magically make me into a paragon of jazz erudition, but I still enjoy going back and looking at the tunes that, time and time again, I've paged past on my way to "Footprints" or "I'll Remember April".

The two that I've hit the most, over the past couple months, have probably been Keith Jarrett's "Fortune Smiles" and Bill Evans' arrangement of "I'm All Smiles". I'd never heard a recording of the Jarrett before I started playing it; like most songs in the Real Book, it's sparsely notated as to dynamics, phrasing, etc., so I forged my own interpretation. After I'd spent a few weeks with it, I went to CDNow and listened to a sound sample, curious to see how much my approach diverged from the original. For the most part, I was along the same lines as the recording, but there were a few interesting differences; most notably, I'd assumed the B section was quiet and lyrical, and had come up with an approach that felt really good to me, but on the recording they hit it just about as hard as they hit the rest of the melody. As for "I'm All Smiles", I haven't heard a recording of it yet, but I feel like I've got a pretty good grip on the song. At first the chords didn't make that much sense to me -- there are a couple weird cross-relations/dissonances with the melody -- but I've either gotten used to them, or have found ways of phrasing them that seem plausible to me. I feel like now, when I finally do hear the Evans recording, I'll potentially have a kind of aesthetic access to it that I otherwise wouldn't have had. I'm not sure whether it's one that I would've needed -- it's not the same as, say, playing through a Schoenberg piano piece before attending a recital where it's to be featured -- but it'll be interesting to see how my initial reaction changes, having already in some sense "learned" the song.

current music: Bruce & Brian BecVar - The Magic of Healing: Kapha (Man, if this is "kind of new-agey", I'm afraid to find out what you think is really new-agey! It's inoffensive, though -- it doesn't have too much of the oppressive quality that so many recordings like it seem to have -- and has its moments here and there. Still, is there some unwritten rule that people making this kind of music have to use, like, the shittiest-sounding patches they can find? Those choir patches are just awful.)

(Comments for September 21, 2002)

September 16, 2002 (link)

1:27 PM

Here is my track-by-track review of Disc One of Yellowdock, J.'s contribution to -- and opening salvo for -- our CD trading club:

  1. "Independant [sic] Introduction" (1:01) - Fink

    A fun way to start off. My taste for exotica -- whether it's the original product, or in sampled form -- is not what it used to be, and for that matter was never as much as I expected it to be to begin with. But I can still enjoy the happy organ, the Latin Lite feel, the well-recorded upright bass. I wonder if they used Metasynth to get those harmonic resonator effects? That opening sample is really tinny, at least on my speakers.

  2. "Going To Writhe" (2:51) - Deformo

    Very weird at first to hear this out of the context of the album. I wonder what impression other folks, who aren't familiar with their (self-titled) CD, will have of Deformo after hearing this track. The vocals are definitely among the album's most restrained, with only a hint of what some reviewer somewhere called "Steve Salad's Jerry-Lewis-meets-Gordon-Gano vocals". It's surprising how rich and, well, "normal" his vocals sound when he's staying out of the upper register. I like this track, though it's definitely no "Rich Kid" or "Mr. Saturday Night". If this had been the sole RealAudio sample available when I was thinking about picking the album up, would it have grabbed me enough to buy it, as "Mr. Saturday Night" did? To be candid, probably not. But I still like the track.

  3. "Everything is Alright" (2:31) - Four Tet

    Great drum loop. The sound of that unmuted bass drum reminds me of Eric Gravatt's playing on the live side of I Sing the Body Electric. I'm still not sure why that sound works so well for me; it's got something to do with a mental image of the drums projecting a cone-shaped sound field, like the diagrams of dragon breath in old AD&D books. Usually "funky" = "tight kick drum", but this is just as funky, though the total opposite. The direction they decide to take this song in, with the F minor stuff in the guitar and piano, is nice enough, but I can't help wishing they'd exploit their funky drummer a little more. That's my own prejudice at work, though; remind me of Eric Gravatt, and I'm probably going to want a wild 'n crazy Miroslav Vitous solo.

  4. "Raspberry Fields" (4:01) - Cannibal Ox

    Interesting, creative loops and programming meet some wildly uneven rhymes: that "I'm Mac, 'cause I think different" line is a real howler. On the other hand, that "said a word twice" bit is kind of funny, though it adds another 20 seconds to a track that's already a bit overlong. What's all that about carnations? And is that a sample from "Strawberry Fields Forever" in the B-section? From the quarter-note piano, I suspect so, but I can't place it in the original.

  5. "Failure" (3:41) - Kings of Convenience (recorded live on 93 FM, Paris)

    There was a priceless incident on ILM where one of the members of the KoC showed up on a thread about them, describing it as "the funniest thing I`ve ever encountered on a 'kings of convenience' search on the net". (In response to some gossip about his romantic life, he replied "But, hey. One out of two electronica-band-girls ain`t bad scoring for someone resembling a Proclaimers dude.") Assuming the post was for real, it only increased my respect for them. I have mixed feelings about their work as a whole, but I've already written here about how impressed I was when I heard "Toxic Girl" for the first time on the radio: fundamentally, I'm favorably disposed to them, even if sometimes they get a little too milquetoast for my taste. I figured their album was basically a pretty accurate document of a Kings of Convenience performance, with some added overdubs, and this confirms it -- other than a false start and a popped "P", it sounds like their studio recordings. (The ending is a little sketchy, maybe.) There's something I quite like about the sound of the single note (a B) that starts the song out: I suspect it's played on the A string capoed at the 2nd fret, and thus has the resonance of an open string. It reminds me a little of the one-stringed bass fiddles that Gunnar made -- tall, boxy instruments, nearly my height, with trapezoidal bodies -- which sounded a bit like a dulcimer, at least when played with the little wooden dowels that were all over the place up there. (Now there's a resource I failed to do much of anything with: all those great sounds, and I never used them in anything I recorded.)

  6. "Arnold calls Gateway again" (1:48) - "Celebrity Soundboards"

    "Who's your daddy, and what does he do?"

    By the way, I assume everyone (now) realizes what's going on here, yes?

  7. "Good Rats" (3:03) - Dropkick Murphys with Shane MacGowan

    My sweater's on, I'm in the corner, and my thumb is squeaky-clean. (Though "cringe" is much too strong, and the tin whistle is fun.)

  8. "Spirit of the Water" (2:07) - Camel

    That pan-flute is just a little too cheesy for my tastes, I'm afraid. There's a lovely, gentle song in here trying to get out, but it doesn't quite make it. Maybe someone's covered it and brought out its best parts? (A nice thing about being a musician: if no one has, maybe someday that someone can be me.) I am reminded, though, of how much I like the sound of vocals run through a Leslie -- it's a very liquid, distant sound, and genuinely feels like hearing someone's voice come to you from across a pond, or over a body of slowly moving water. It's a sound that's certainly been used plenty (and famously), but it still seems fresh and novel to my ears. Maybe the expense and pain-in-the-ass of having a Leslie has kept it from being run into the ground too thoroughly. Does everyone's copy get that left-channel distortion in the intro, or is it just me? I've tried it on two different sets of speakers and had the same result.

  9. "Svatba" (1:31) - Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir

    This is good, but my favorite of theirs is still a track whose name I can't recall. Will post about that one when I find out the name -- haven't tracked it down yet. Update: ah, it's "Erghen Diado (Song Of Schopsko)". 7/8, F minor, lots of narrow intervals, percussion -- good stuff.

  10. "Carolyn's Fingers" (3:08) - Cocteau Twins

    Right about when I started getting into Low, I was very intrigued by the idea of the Cocteau Twins, and was very interested in picking up one of their albums to check their stuff out. Somehow I didn't get around to it -- and actually, to my knowledge, I don't think I'd ever heard a note of their music when I then read that Liz Fraser was known for singing in her own, invented language. That set off major alarm bells in my head; I have long had a very strong antipathy to songs made up of nonsense syllables or invented languages, at least in music that specifically aspires to profundity or beauty (rather than silliness, overt experimentation, etc.). There's something about it that I find extremely infantilizing, and has made me squirm in my chair at times (cf. the works of a composer whose name anagrams to "no mere kid, THM", who I'm told is a pleasant person and who was friendly when we met, but whose works have never worked for me at all).

    So anyway, I steered clear of the Cocteau Twins, and my other experiences with dyed-in-the-wool "shoegazer" music didn't make me question that decision: for instance, I love Slowdive's Pygmalion album, but don't get much out of their earlier records, which I'm told are pretty much prototypically shoegazer. But a big part of that was my expecting the kind of slow-time profundity possessed by bands like Low, and that Slowdive attained with "Rutti"; realizing that these tracks were aiming for something different made it easier to enjoy them on their own terms. So, now, listening to this, it might well be my first-ever Cocteau Twins track. And you know what? It's nice enough. I wouldn't want to listen to it all the time, but it's fun, and I don't find the made-up language thing objectionable at all, though I also make a point of not thinking about it too hard. (I'm assuming this song is in a made-up language, as I can't make out a word she's saying except for the occasional rolled R.) There's a lot of music that's like this, that I would rather listen to this than -- assuming that grammatical wreck of a sentence makes any sense.

  11. "Good Thing" (1:44) - The Jesus Lizard

    I've often seen Jesus Lizard fans maligned, in print and on the web, though I've never fully understood what about the band inspired such distaste for their fans. On the other hand, I've never really heard the Jesus Lizard before, and if this track is representative, I don't really hear what the big deal is either way. I was expecting something far more dissonant and angular; this is just by-the-numbers stuff, really. Now, the Jesus Lizard may well have invented that particular coloring book -- I don't know the subtleties of recent rock history well enough to say. But I still like Festival of Dead Deer better! (Apples and oranges, I suppose.)

  12. "Ocean Within" (3:06) - Saul Williams & KRS1

    90% of the time, when someone sings over a hip-hop track, I spend my time waiting for them to go away. If anything, though, here I like the sung vocals better than the rhymes -- which are OK, but strangely unmemorable, whereas there's something about the singer I find appealing (for one, I like that little half-step rise). Maybe I need to give them a few more listens, a bit more of a chance to settle in. I like that crackly, understated major 7th loop in the background; a lot of my favorite hip-hop has that kind of sound in it. Is KRS-One the second rapper? And, as the tapeworm said to the doctor, "Where's my banana?" (For purposes of this post let "banana" = "fade-out".)

  13. "summer of love" (2:47) - | head | phone | over | tone |

    I'd like to hear an album by these guys -- they're another one where it's hard to slow down my internal clock in time to really get into the right mood for the song. It's a bit like three tracks from Pink Floyd's More, as covered by Landing, played simultaneously. There are some nice sounds going on here, and I'd like to have more time in the song to get to know them. Ideally, if "| head | phone | over | tone |" do have an album, they either have some longer songs, or cross-fade between tracks.

  14. "Burnt Siena and Avocado" (3:39) - Emperor Penguin

    The first few times I heard this, I was really expecting it to turn into a hip-hop track, and I'm still a little surprised when it doesn't. Nice drum loop, some interesting ideas, and an attractive countermelody in the guitar (at about 0:42), but I don't feel like this track lives up to its potential. It needs more space, more room to breathe, longer limbs and more surprises -- and something about this track makes me think that these guys are indeed capable of taking it up a notch or two: it's a little like hearing a B-track off a good album, or the initial demos of a talented friend. The little jazz guitar solo near the end isn't quite fluent enough to really give me the payoff I wanted, alas; it's not that I want sixteenth-note runs, but it stumbles into an awkward bluesiness where it needs to be more lyrical and laid-back.

  15. "Track Fifteen" (1:27) - Meat Beat Manifesto

    I really, really like that liquid, swirly sound. Of all the sounds that synthesizers can make (and I assume that sound came from a synth of some sort), that kind is one of my favorites. Lovely stereo image to it. We get so used to equal temperament, and forget how nice some microtones, quarter-tones, 1/3-tones can sound. I'd actually be very interested in seeing what process made that sound; I'd like to hope it's one that can change dynamically over time, rather than the static output of a specific, non-extensible DSP treatment of a particular sample. Out of curiosity, was this track sourced from MP3, or an original CD? It sounds noticeably richer and more spacious than some of the other cuts, and it'd be interesting to know if its genealogy was different.

  16. "bloweyelashwish" (1:34) - Loveliescrushing

    This is trebly-digital enough that love at first "sight" is pretty much out of the question, but I like it well enough. (And after all, you can't fault things for not being what they're not trying to be.) Nice to hear a song that really does swell, ebb and flow, with plenty of space. And nice to finally hear Loveliescrushing, who I've been hearing about for a while.

  17. "Tèssassètgn eko" (4:05) - Bahta Gèbrè-Heywèt

    Getting familiar with the Éthiopiques compilation has given me an excuse to learn a bit more about the Ethiopian language and culture. For instance, check out the Amharic alphabet: a year ago, I wouldn't have even known what languages were spoken in Ethiopia, let alone been able to identify Amharic script. When I first heard Éthiopiques and saw the liner notes, I realized I hadn't a clue what language they were written in, and couldn't even hazard a guess as to what they might be related to, linguistically. As it turns out, it's a Semitic language with ties to Arabic and Hebrew. (I'm not sure whether the other major Ethiopian languages share the same alphabet and linguistic roots.) Kind of neat to think how most of these tracks were recorded -- one or two microphones and a cassette recorder, set up in a basement club somewhere in Addis Ababa, with everything recorded live. It's definitely worlds apart from stuff like Fela, and makes for an intriguing change of pace if you've gotten burned out on his style (which has yet to happen to me) and want to explore a different vein of African music from that era.

  18. "Primrose" (3:46) - Mors Syphilitica

    I like the mandolin intro a lot, but when the singer comes in, I start to get edgy. It's not so bad at first, but after about 30 seconds, it loses me: when she starts singing in a strained, affected voice about how the primrose needs to ease her completely, for me the song lands with a thud on the "unintentionally comic" side of the line. I just picture a plump, overly-earnest woman in her late 30s, wearing too much makeup and black lipstick, her eyes bulging and her teeth smilingly bared, looking like a cross between the Bearded Lady from The Tall Guy and Harley Quinn from Batman. And I'm not taken with the lyrics, in all candor: "And beyond the natural / To live upon the dews / Is grace of the ideal / Bells are just symbols / Symbols of motion"? For me, this kind of song needs to be supported by lyrics that are more convincing and articulate than that. (Maybe they could make like a million other bands, and just translate their lyrics into some exotic-sounding, little-spoken language!) I'm sure they're nice people, but their music -- if this track is representative -- makes me feel uncomfortable and vaguely embarrassed.

  19. "Either/Or Dinosaur" (3:56) - BelittleBig

    Part of me thinks this is a fun little song, playful and creative, with gently subversive lyrics. Another part of me thinks this is basically a not-very-good song dressed up with lots of neat sound effects and arranging tricks. But hey, it's memorable, and it doesn't drag, so that's two points in its favor. The kids' voices are definitely one of the better parts of the song, though; without them, it'd have a lot less charm.

  20. "Y Fford Oren" (2:38) - Gorky's Zygotic Mynci

    Speaking of exotic-sounding, little-spoken languages, here's a song in Welsh! I always think the intro to this song is an extra little outro to "Either/Or Dinosaur", and am relieved to find it isn't: here, it's fun, but on the end of E/OD, it'd be indulgent. As for the song itself, it's a reasonably tuneful little number. There's gotta be a name for that kind of beat (which somehow reminds me of Squeeze -- not sure why). That's something I've been noticing a lot lately when doing song-poem reviews -- I want to describe the beat, and feel like it's a certain kind of stock rhythm, but don't know what to call it. I don't honestly know whether that represents a gap in my knowledge, or in descriptive musical terminology; I'm probably safer betting on the former.

  21. "October" (1:59) - Tor Lundvall & Tony Wakeford

    I don't know who Tor and Tony are, though I feel like I've seen their names before. What is that sound? It feels familiar to me. Accordion? Organ? Harmonium? Not sure, but it's nice. If the woman speaking French weren't there, I probably wouldn't miss her, and I like the song better when I do my best to ignore her.

  22. "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (3:37) - Rahsaan Roland Kirk

    I've played this song before. Still not sure what I think of it, compositionally speaking. The Real Book version is a little different, as Real Book versions usually are. The ambience of the recording takes a little while to get used to -- the rhythm section feels far away, with Rahsaan Roland Kirk way upfront. Every time I listen to this song, at about the halfway mark, I start getting into it. He's definitely a formidable improviser, as even a cursory listen to Rip, Rig and Panic will make clear. I remember hearing that on the day Coltrane died -- at least, I think it was Coltrane -- Rahsaan dedicated his show that night to Trane, and proceeded to turn in what those present called one of the greatest performances they'd ever seen, by him or by anyone else. I don't think a tape has ever surfaced, though I'd love to learn otherwise if anyone knows something I don't!

  23. "Pornopolka" (2:35) - Hedningarna

    Some part of me has always insisted that house music is basically polka in disguise. Hardly an original thought, but listening to this track definitely reminds me of that connection. I didn't expect to be drawn to this one, but I like it a lot! This is definitely a "like it or sweater" track; within about ten seconds of the start, even I want to get up and dance. The rhythm is driving, well-constructed, and relentless, and those female singers are spot-on -- aggressive and in-tune, with voices full of humor and spirit. I've been seeing Hedningarna's name cropping up here and there, and given what they're capable of here, I can see why! If they come to the East Coast sometime, buy me a ticket, get a couple drinks in me, and I'll take to the dance floor.

  24. "Warning Dub" (2:29) - Eyesburn

    Serbian dub music, eh? Well, whatever country it's from, I quite like it. Heavy, deep dub, with some really nice stuff going on rhythmically -- that bass line never quite feels like it's landed on the one. The singer's voice betrays his metal origins, but in a good way -- those little AC/DC cries and shouts of "Ya!" give the track a little extra something. Definitely one of my favorites of the whole set. I wish it were even longer!

  25. "Gospel" (2:22) - Michael Hedges

    I've never really been good at articulating what works for me in this kind of track, and what doesn't. This is somewhere in the middle -- it's nice enough, and cleanly and expressively played, but doesn't give me the nice warm feeling I get from an "Embryonic Journey" or "Little Martha". Cuts off kind of abruptly...?

  26. "Lullaby" (5:21) - 7% Solution

    7% Solution is one of those bands that keep surfacing on the edge of my musical awareness -- a free download here, a track on a mix tape there -- but, despite their impressive pedigree and some rave reviews from friends, have never have quite hooked me into pursuing them. Perhaps something about them gave me the impression that their space-rock clothes fit too comfortably, leaving me to expect "genre music" without any spark of brilliance. And yet I can't remember being at all displeased by anything I've heard from them; it all has seemed tasteful, intelligent -- but a bit too safe. I can't say that this track has singlehandedly changed my opinion, and in some ways it's confirmed it: "everything is in its right place", but nothing makes me really sit up and take notice. But in a way, this has made me more interested in possibly picking up one of their albums, because -- much like | head | phone | over | tone | -- I think their particular brand of music might well play better over the course of a full CD than on a track-by-track basis.

  27. "The Lecture" (6:34) - Jurassic 5

    Indeed a fitting coda to the first disc, there's some fun wizardry going on here. I'm getting a little tired, in general, of the ironic-sample schtick, but when it's done with such flair, it's hard to refuse. Nice 12/8 drum sample there -- indeed, there's plenty of good stuff to sample from this track. Probably the funniest moment is the Led Zeppelin-meets-Frank Sinatra bit. The choice of ending is a pleasant surprise.

current music: Yellowdock, Disc One

(Comments for September 16, 2002) (2 comments so far)

September 15, 2002 (link)

5:48 PM

Someone got here with the Google search string "lester+bowie+wynton+marsalis+controversy". Out of curiosity, I did the same search, and ended up at a page from the Acid Jazz mailing list archive which quoted the following, very interesting story:

About five or six years ago...the Boston Public Library had Wynton in as a speaker along with the photographer to promote [their] book. The setting was pretty much a lecture in the main exhibition hall at the library. Wynton was going to make some comments, play a little bit, open it up for Q & A, and then sign books...

In his opening comments he said something about there being a long history of photographs and jazz...He then said, "When you play at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, there's a photo of Coltrane behind the bandstand. You're up there on the stand taking your solo, and you might blow five or six choruses or something, thinking you're playing better than anybody has ever played. Then when you finish your solo, step away from the mic, and return to the back of the bandstand you're faced with that picture of Coltrane down on his knees blowing, and it's a very humbling thing. You realize what you're really up against, in the tradition of this music." This is pretty much the opening that I was waiting for, more or less, for about ten years.

Finally, Wynton opens up the floor for Q & A...There is one question from someone questioning his programming of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Marsalis' reply is that "I'm the director, and I'm going to program what I want. If someone else is the director, they can program what they want." He receives a damn-near standing ovation for this response. Then he calls on me;

"Mr Marsalis, I know that you began your comments by mentioning the picture of 'Trane on his knees blowing in Tivoli Gardens. I find that an interesting point for you to make, given the way that you have tried to marginalize the advancements of Coltrane, probably of the sort he was making on his knees in that picture, in your directorship of Lincoln Center. My question is only this; If it were 1963, and you were the director of Lincoln Center, would you have allowed Coltrane to take the stage?"

"If he was playing Lush Life or Giant Steps, yes I would. It would depend on the program he was interested in presenting."

"No, I'm referring to the type of music that John Coltrane was probably playing when that picture of him was taken of him on his knees. Would you have allowed that? The 1963 version of the quartet, with Eric Dolphy, say?"

"Well, if he was playing all that squawkety squawk racket, no. But if he were....."

"I simply want to know, yes or no, would you have allowed the John Coltrane quartet to perform at Lincoln Center, had you been the director in 1963?"

"Well, like I said...."

"Yes or no, sir."

"No I would not."

"Thank you very much."

And I sat down. I think it was at that point that Wynton realized that he had just banned John Coltrane from the stage in Lincoln Center ( even before A Love Supreme had been made), and he started to squirm. He didn't take another question, but tried to elaborate on why he would not have allowed that version of the Coltrane band on the stage. Then he took another question, all the while watching me, sitting there grinning, out of the corner of his eye. He answered the next question, and tried to tie it in with my question. Then he just returned to responding to my question, very flustered. I don't remember him taking more than one or two questions after mine, but he did spend the rest of his time trying to defend that position. (At least that's what it seemed like to me.) He did approach me as I was leaving, and said something about me trying to play "gotcha" with him.

I was dying to hear him say this kind of thing. I had been waiting for it for ten years. The man actually nullified John Coltrane as a jazz musician. How could I, or anyone who really cares about this music, ever take anything the man ever says about Jazz seriously? If I had read in an interview that he said he would never allow Coltrane on stage at Lincoln Center, I would have written him off as someone to take seriously on the subject of jazz. The fact that I got to hear it out if his mouth, in response to a question I asked of him, only makes it all that much sweeter for me.

Of course, you have to take the story with a grain of salt...and as another poster pointed out, Miles Davis very well might've banned him too! But even after you account for potentially biased reporting and so forth (would Wynton really be so foolish as to call it a "squawkety squawk racket"?), it's still pretty telling.

current music: Stonemen Hiss - Fulgurite (thanks, Ryan!)

(Comments for September 15, 2002)

September 12, 2002 (link)

11:26 PM

If you dig the music and want to wish him well, consider sending a card to Shooby Taylor for his 73rd birthday, coming up on September 19th -- less than a week away!

11:13 PM

Some days you kick yourself for not rolling tape on everything you do: I was listening to "Luuk Kob's Diddley Bow Feature" from the Thai Elephant Orchestra CD, and realized that I still had the Radio Tunis RealAudio stream playing in the background, muted, from earlier when I had been listening to it. I brought the volume it up, and at first it was silent, making me wonder whether the connection hadn't given up on me. But then a muezzin came in, singing an a cappella solo, and the combination was fantastic! The two sounded like they were absolutely meant to be together -- phrases ended and began at exactly the right places, with the steady-unsteady rhythm of the elephants often coinciding perfectly with the entrances and exits of the singer. And it was inherently unreproducible: though I know from previous experience that Radio Tunis has this sort of thing on fairly often, I have no idea whether the muezzin is singing live, or if it's a recording, and even if it were a commercially available CD I'd have no idea how to track it down. (It's a very dry, clean recording, so I suspect it's live in the studio. He's still singing now, ten minutes later.) The choice of "Luuk Kob" was perfect, too -- it's a much sparser selection, with far fewer pitched elements, than most of the other tracks on the disk. This makes me all the hungrier for a mixing board!

current music: Radio Tunis

(Comments for September 12, 2002)

September 10, 2002 (link)

6:47 PM

The other night at H.'s place, after she'd gone to sleep, I made myself a mix CD from some of the MP3s I've copied onto her iMac. I couldn't really preview the disc without waking her, so it was interesting to fly blind a bit and see what I came up with:

  1. (four minutes of silence)
  2. Pink Floyd - "Love Scene #1" (Zabriskie Point outtake from A Journey Through Time and Space)
  3. Claude Debussy - "Et la lune descend sur la temple qui fut" (Pascal Rogé, piano)
  4. Nick Drake - "River Man"
  5. Charles Atlas - "Pond Cup"
  6. Deep Chill Network - "Feather"
  7. Carlo Gesualdo - "Peccantem Me Quotidie" (arr. for brass ensemble)
  8. American Analog Set - "It's All About Us (7" version)"
  9. Lazy Smoke - "I Could Fall Asleep (demo)"
  10. Harold Budd - "The Corpse at the Shooting Gallery"
  11. To Rococo Rot - "Die Dinge des Lebens"
  12. Maurice Ravel - "Oiseaux Tristes" (Abbey Simon, piano)
  13. Higher Intelligence Agency and Biosphere - "Daddylonglegs"
  14. Polyester Orkester - "Aldrigpunkt"
  15. Claudio Monteverdi - "Ave Maris Stella" (performers unknown)
  16. Deep Chill Network - "Slumber"

As you might've guessed, my intent was initially to make a disc I might be able to fall asleep to, or failing that, to make one that occupied a fairly consistent (and more-or-less ambient) soundworld. Overall I think I succeeded pretty well, and some of the transitions came out pretty nicely. I deliberately picked a few tracks I didn't know very well at all, especially the Budd, the HIA/Biosphere, and the Charles Atlas. Between that, and not previewing the disc before I burned it, listening to the disc for the first time was a bit like a surprise present I'd given to myself, in that I often didn't really know what was coming next, but knew that it would probably be in something of the same vein. (If there's one selection I'd change, it'd probably be "Aldrigpunkt" -- a song I quite admire, but it's the kind of track that almost needs to be surrounded with dissimilar songs. In the midst of a "warm ambient" compilation, it seems a bit out of place -- digital, angular, and bleak -- and I feel like my choice of it was a bit too reflexive, in that another song I liked less might've nonetheless been better for the flow of the disc as a whole.)

On the other hand, there were a few transitions that could've used a crossfade -- something that version of iTunes (1.0) can't do -- and, to my chagrin, I discovered that the Monteverdi cuts off about a minute before the end! I downloaded that one a couple years back, during Napster's heyday, and still don't know who the performers are. I don't like their version as much as Harnoncourt's, but I thought I'd try it out, since I've only listened to it a couple times. By the way, if you're wondering about the four minutes of silence, it's not a pretentious lead-in sort of thing; I did it because I could spot a physical defect in the CDR, only a little ways from the hub, and figured that if I started the CD with a few minutes of silence then the music would begin after the defect, and nothing would skip. My guess of four minutes turned out to be more or less correct -- the Pink Floyd looks like it might start just at the edge of the defect, but I haven't heard it glitch on playback yet.

Speaking of Pink Floyd, the night before I made the mix, I played Side 2 of Wish You Were Here, as well as the entirety of Return to Forever's Musicmagic and most of Vanilla Ice's To the Extreme, on my new-found boombox while I washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen. I assume the Return to Forever isn't one of their better albums, since it's total dreck, and I don't really have anything new to say about Vanilla Ice (though I was surprised by how boyish he sounds -- I'd forgotten how young he was). I didn't expect the Pink Floyd to sound so mild, though; I enjoyed it, I suppose, but I've gotten so used to the raw, live versions of those songs that the studio ones seemed very tame by comparison. That didn't hurt the title track much, and "Have a Cigar" has other things to recommend the studio version (like Roy Harper's take on the vocals), but "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" sounded particularly weak, both in terms of a lack of aggression and from the absence of Rick Wright's closing piano solo, which is one of the best parts of the song when they do it live. I despise these silly-ass terms like "rockist" and the like, but one of them -- "MOR", which depending on whom you ask means either "middle-of-the-road rock" or "market-oriented rock" -- seems dangerously close to being apt. On the other hand, it was a tape, and those Columbia tapes are notorious for sounding highly processed and bland. In fact, except for radio broadcasts, I don't know that I've ever heard Wish You Were Here on CD, or LP for that matter...? In any event, I still think the songwriting on the album is great, and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is one of the band's best, but I can understand why a lot of people seem to prefer Animals -- an album which, even though it's much heavier slogging, is also definitely more raw and visceral.

And speaking of mix CDs, I have received Yellowdock, and look forward to reviewing it in the very near future!

current music: American Analog Set - "It's All About Us (7" version)"

(Comments for September 10, 2002)

September 7, 2002 (link)

2:08 PM

"Keep Those Hopes Up", lyrics by Mary McBride, music by Lew Tobin, and sung by Gary Roberts.

The bass glisses down, the piano and guitar play a jaunty little C major theme in octaves, the bass answers with a "ba-dum-bum-bum", and we're off:

Keep those hopes high
Don't be blue

Gary Roberts' delivery of these lines is leaden, flat, and a bit overwrought -- in other words, pretty typical song-poem singing. And by "flat" I mean not only "lacking in intensity", but "a dozen cents shy of the correct pitch" -- he's subtly off, but it's there. Meanwhile the guitarist is playing off-beat chunk-chunk-chunks. The whole thing reminds me a bit of...

When all of a sudden you are feeling low

...the main music to Super Mario Bros. 2! Those ascending triplets in the piano are charming -- straight out of the "twee" (don't like that word) end of the Nintendo music universe. Fire up your copy of SMB2 and compare -- you could easily make a bootleg mix of the two! The walking bass part is especially reminiscent of SMB2.

That's when it seems that everyone is against you

I think one of my favorite parts of doing these song-poem reviews are these moments -- that first peek that something is a bit askew in the psyche of the lyricist. It seems like a fairly innocuous sentiment, a bit reminiscent of a line in Traffic's "Empty Pages", but consider that there, the line is "She's the one makes me feel so good when everything is against me". (Good song, by the way.) And that's how I suspect most of us would write it. The feeling that "every thing is against me" is a pretty normal one -- indeed, it's something that I think few of us have never felt -- but, importantly, it places the responsibility for that feeling in something fairly abstract, whether it be the Immutable Will, the deity of our choice, karma, witchcraft, or whatever else. But thinking that everyone is against you strikes me as a far more inherently and concretely paranoid thought, since it locates the cause of that feeling in other people, each of whom is -- if the statement is to be taken literally -- specifically and personally against you. Admittedly, a lot of people have had one or two moments in their lives where that might have seemed perilously close to being true. But feeling that way on an ongoing basis is probably a sign of clinical paranoia.

Concentrate on something that interests you

This is the first line that really feels like it came not from a pop song, but from a daily affirmation. It reminds me a little of that duff lyric in "Take It As It Comes" -- "Specialize in having fun". The question is, are these lyrics advice to someone else, or to the author?

Keep those hopes up
You'll feel better if you do

This uplifting sentiment is mirrored by the rising vocal line -- B, C, D, G.

So keep those thoughts on good things

Again, this line sits a little funny on the palate. There's a hint of obsessiveness to it -- "must keep thoughts on good things, must keep thoughts on good things, mustn't think about setting fires, the fires and the burning and the..."

Not everyone is against you

This line made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it, but --

Not completely

-- this line put me on the floor! It's such a wildly paranoid and yet ineffectual, lady-doth-protest-too-much statement -- and when you marry it to this awkwardly jaunty music and that stiff, heavy voice, it's completely comic. It's the kind of thing you'd say if you did believe that everyone was against you, but -- though you didn't want to admit it -- could only protest weakly. It's a little bit Milhouse-like -- a more defeated version of "My mom thinks I'm cool".

And if you try, you will find
Happiness in everything you do

These fairly unremarkable lines are followed by a repeat of the opening motto. Then we get an instrumental break -- a bit like Vince Guaraldi, but without the inspiration, taste, or craftsmanship -- in which the bass player perpetrates some awful clams by way of failing to notice that his fingers are one fret off from where they should be. The guitar solo is no great shakes, either.

Keep those hopes up
You'll feel better if you do
So keep those thoughts on good things

As in the first appearance of these lines, the piano and guitar suddenly drop out for "You'll feel better if you do", reemerging partway through the next line. It seems too intentional to be an accident, but I don't really understand why they did it -- it's the kind of thing that isn't really likely to add anything to the song (the way they do it, at least).

Not everyone is against you
Not completely
And if you try, you will find
Happiness in everything you do
Happiness in everything you do!

And the song clunks to a finish, leaving you half-expecting to hear Jamey Aebersold's voice come in to count off the next track: "One...two...one, two, three, four." This whole thing could be Aebersold karaoke, at that, although the accompaniment is definitely not up to JA's standards by a long shot -- they may be a bit stiff, but those guys can play.

By the way, my guess that Tobin wrote the music and Ms. McBride wrote the lyrics is based on the Sterling Records discography, which co-credits Tobin on about half of the records listed. I can't imagine he'd give a damn about the niceties of the lyrics, so I'd assume he was the Sterling Records in-house composer/arranger. It's a little atypical in the song-poem world to actively seek a credit for your work -- even the singers often used pseudonyms, as I recall. [Addendum, Sept. 10, 2002: Well, duh -- Mr. Tobin and his wife owned the label.]

current music: the sweet sound of Andre Agassi's racket, thumping Lleyton Hewitt 6-4 7-6 (5) 4-1 as I write this.

(Comments for September 7, 2002)

September 5, 2002 (link)

10:58 PM

So, first off, you can find the WFMU archive of the Shooby Taylor interview here, in RealAudio format. (Click the August 28 link; the Shooby section starts a little past the two-hour mark, at 02:05:15, with Shooby's take on "In a Mellotone".) Most of what I'd otherwise have talked about can easily be gleaned by listening to the show, though some of the highlights are definitely worth mentioning -- most notably, Shooby's story of how he met Eric Dolphy, who apparently liked Shooby's scatting quite a lot!

I was the second caller on the show, and as you'll hear if you listen to the archive, Irwin was kind enough to hand me an opportunity to plug the "Stout-Hearted Men" transcription I did. (It's kind of a nifty coincidence that I did that transcription not long before they announced Shooby had been found: good timing/intuition on my part!) I've seen a few referral hits for things like "rockoverlondon+shooby+transcription", so I guess people were listening and found their way here. I probably was a little overly generous with my compliments to Shooby, but I've no regrets about that -- particularly as it sounds like the poor guy has taken a fair amount of hard knocks over the years, including a fairly recent stroke that's left him unable to perform and made his speech a bit irregular (though still perfectly coherent). He was very nice on the phone, and seemed to appreciate my compliments and my question. The new tracks they played were all fun, though there wasn't anything on the same level as "Stout-Hearted Men" -- which is one unanswered question, tangentially: was Shooby playing the organ on that song, or was it a recording or an accompanist? There's definitely something different about those first few Human Horn recordings -- they're more upfront, dynamic -- and I like to think it's just him and his organ, but he's never mentioned being an organist, only a saxophonist. The answer may well be in the Songs in the Key of Z book, which I unfortunately have yet to acquire. (My birthday is coming up in only a few weeks...)

I tried to listen to Magma's Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandöh as I first started writing this entry, but it was driving me nuts within about three minutes. I don't think I've ever sat down and listened to the whole thing. My first exposure to Magma was in my friend Alex's car, listening to some live tape he had kicking around; they sounded like a cross between Mahavishnu and Gong to me, but I've haven't heard any Magma since that was along those lines -- everything else has been more overtly bombastic. Speaking of Gong, I've been very much enjoying Daevid Allen's excellent Good Morning album lately. I've never much chased after Gong members' solo albums -- I assumed it was one of those whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts things, as is almost always the case -- but this one's a real keeper, and makes it clear just how much of what I like about Gong comes from him (though my favorite Gong album is still You, a record on which his influence is on the wane, and I have a soft spot for Shamal, which was the first Gong record I ever heard). They call him "one of the great hippie poets" or something like that, and though it sounds like a backhanded compliment, it's really quite apt -- he's better at making mystical/hippy-dippy lyrics work than just about anyone else I've ever heard, including the Beatles. And there's lots of lovely music on the album; some of it is more memorable than others, of course, but the overall feel is that of a gentle, pastoral intelligence which I find very appealing. I hope Gong tours here again soon; a certain Oliver Daniel fan tells me that Daevid is a huge, loving, friendly bear of a man. I'd love to meet him!

I'm not generally one to listen to music as I go to sleep -- at least not at night, anyway: when I take a nap during the day, it actually seems to help, and turning a record up loud at 4 p.m. is sometimes surprisingly effective at knocking me out. (I know I've passed out to ambient stuff like Deep Chill Network -- and to Neon From Candlelight's CDR, which is towards the feedback-drone end of the spectrum -- but I think I've also passed out listening to something far noisier and more unpredictable: All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors? Ornette Coleman?) The past two nights, though, I've put on Magical Power Mako's Trance Resonance and Facil's Untitled, respectively. The Facil, which I played last night, didn't really do much of anything -- I fell asleep with it playing at medium volume in the next room, woke up twenty minutes later and shut it off. Trance Resonance, though, made for a strange half-dreaming experience, and waking up to it was a bit disorienting -- it took me a moment to figure out what those sounds were. It's easy enough, of course, to see why each had its respective effect: the Facil is pretty straight-up 4/4 ambient, whereas the Magical Power Mako disc is basically a collage of different sounds, samples, performance techniques, and musical excerpts, and even when you're fully conscious it's a far less easy disc to anticipate. It's also a concert recording, which makes it feel a bit different than your typical record of that sort, inasmuch as there is any "typical" etc. It's nothing radical, but it makes for a nice change of pace -- a little looser, and a bit more spacious, than your average studio project. A description of the album here, at the Forced Exposure website, has some interesting details about the performance and instrumentation.

current music: Atom Heart - Dots

(Comments for September 5, 2002)


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