I believe I can say with conviction and pseudo-psychologic certainty, that I am obsessed with music
Talking Heads, Remain in Light
. Amazingly futuristic (for 1980!) white grooves (point: Africa=timeless). Great frenetic, aggressively rapid, darting rhythms. Full tilt. Though I hesitate to bring out the review-friendly ‘polyrhythmic’; I don’t think it’s quite as syncopated or interlocking as that term suggests. I like the little identity stories like Houses in Motion
, Seen and Not Seen
— in many ways, nerd-rock on a plane much higher than Pulp. I mean, a song with concepts like ‘There was a line/There was a formula… Facts cut a hole in us/Facts are useless in an emergency’ is just brimming with too much intelligence. Which is good. All nerd rock should be this driven, this funky. Though Byrne’s singing/songwriting has improved a lot since these early declamatory days. Less arty-statement tryin-ta-makeya-think gawky. He’s even giving French lyrics and pseudo-opera a burl nowadays. The Great Curve
is the highlight of the album of course (followed by Crosseyed and Painless
, then Once in a Lifetime
) — it’s highly relevant, noteworthy, pointed, that this triumph of white groove is also a triumph of backing vocals
— they take over the song almost. Obviously a pet Eno theme. Once in a Lifetime
is surprisingly simple: just two notes and no chord progression. All you really need is a killer hook/chorus et voila. Subtle drumming, clever double cymbal crash. There’s a bit of a further anecdote to this song: back in high school one of our more ‘travelled’ friends had an American boyfriend who came over once and did the waffle about literature (mostly Slaughterhouse 5
, if I remember precisely; I wasn’t invited of course) and who experienced a moment of synergy whilst reading Hesse’s Siddhartha
(theme: sitting by the river) when this song came on the radio (theme: water flowing). It was neat. Still, this is music for New York jungles and wasteland steppes. Slots in nicely with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
. And I am, of course, deeply jealous. I wanna make this kinda shit.
Have been listening to music from other rooms a lot lately. It’s a handy method of filtration, a bit like reverse-mixing, trimming the sound down to its essential basics. Sigur Ros’ ágætis byrjun
– with deep reverb and powerful use of the major third (not fully exploited since I saw Verve live) sounds even better from the next room. I should pre-empt a lot of faux-arty flack by saying: yes, but. It’s decidedly arty, yet it all sounds fine to me. It’s not consistently great, but it’s roomy and spacey and atmospheric enough to keep me happy. Remember, I’m a big fan of the early Verve; I like long meandering soundscapes within a pop sensibility. I like drums mixed way back with lotsa reverb. I like slowness and ride cymbals. I like dreamy affect and a somewhat sadness. But ultimately, the net effect of ágætis is well worth it. The vehicle is good, the personnel worthy, the destination clear though blurry and the dominant mood is melancholic. What’s not to like? When listening from the next room, enough of a suggestion of space is left for the mind to project new reactive melodies onto it. A real landscape sounds like it’s happening. Ultimately, it’s not far removed from the Mogwai EP. I find I can tap right into its melancholy. I don’t get any sense of posturing or arch statement-making, nothing wearingly ironic or smug or pathetically small-minded and clever. It’s not about context. Of course the (made-up) language helps that. But if something like this came out of my
home town(s) (Enkhuizen/Brisbane/Sydney) then I’d be an advocate of them too, just like I’m an unpaid travelling advocate for the Necks.
The Best of Chet Baker Sings
, from the balcony with the windows closed, so only the voice filters through like a foggy French horn. I’ve been meaning to write more about Chet, about his closeness to the mike and all the resultant soft-intimacy of his technique, carving out a small but effective frame in which to sing. His is a very particular range; studio-specific rather than bandstand broad and loud: the near opposite of voice-projection. His zone of intimacy extends to about 20 centimetres around his head, it’s like someone whispering with an agreeably swinging soundtrack. A voice of perpetual 20s, a voice (and low 20s at that) which knew its particular range and theme and plied with enough alcohol and drugs to keep it feeling that way. But also a subtle love of the standards and balladeering. Funny that I haven’t owned any Chet till now. Friends always had him in spades.
[end the next-room effect]
Nina Simone, House of the Rising Sun
– live on the Best of the Colpix Years album. Brilliant interpretation. Almost folk-like, haunted and dusty all at once. The doors are open, people sticking their heads in, checking the scene. Nina does her act, shuffling across the stage, the flirt-strut.
Ravi Shankar, Friar Park
from the boxset. Speechless. Short, sculpted, crafted yet immense in affect. I have a weakness for music built on drones; it always sounds like an expansion of sound from within, a thinking growth of inner space and melody. The music within the melody.
The Rolling Stones, Fingerprint File
. Terrifically cheesy, Jagger trying on his best black pimp routine. As though everyone was making a blaxploitation track, trying to get that slick street sound, just like everyone went disco a few years later. Suppose it’s understated how Jagger could inflect his voice for different settings or character, white bluesy how-how one minute and then hicksville Faraway Eyes
Cannonball Adderley, Fun
(on Mercy Mercy Mercy). Hi-grade bopfunk right off the get-go. Hard cooking swing. Loud, urgent immediate jazz right up the mike and into the audience.
David Bowie, I’m afraid of Americans
— with the neat lyric ‘God is an American’. Eno said the title left a lot to be desired, but I think it’s perfect. Perfect for our times with that right edge of Bowienoia, if we can such call his particular alienation. My source at Yahoo/Launch tells me that this EP has 6 versions. Some scratchy, badly remixed or tripped up, not quite close to the power of the main version on the double-disc greatest hits, but sufficiently out there. The fun of the song is not to cross one’s arms and say well it’s just an aggressive baiting of Americans, innit? — but instead to think of the mindset or emotional landscapes within which these tracks have their home. Sounding like Eno again.
The original backing track for Wouldn’t it be Nice
, offa the Pet Sounds Session box (and in stereo). Pure music realised in under three minutes, unsquashed by mono or vocal layers. Amazing sense of timing and song-sculpturing. And yet all the pieces fit with the vocals on top. Purest envy to work with someone who could hear and write music so completely.
Jimmy Scott, Heaven
. My man’s voice is piped down live from heaven. Or at least, though nothing ever happens there, some place like heaven, a state of mind. But Jimmy makes conversions. For heartbreak. For hope. Also, Dream
, which seems to waver slightly when Jimmy sings straight blues, interestingly. But more upbeat than the sublime All The Way
. And with the legendary Milt Jackson on some of the tracks. Deeply humane music.