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Ground and Sky » General
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In theory I’m an aesthetic relativist and I don’t particularly believe in the idea of absolute standards for judging art. However, I occasionally encounter something that makes me think, “this is complete and utter shit and anyone who likes it is brainwashed, an idiot, or both.”
Case in point: Brokencyde, whose “screamo/crunk” garbage should really just be called “date-rape-core.” Their crap has been all over the internet lately, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid it thus far, here I am to burst your bubble.
Other awesomely terrible songs by this band: “Get Crunk,” “Bree Bree” (my favorite, and it’s even worse live if that’s possible). “Bree bree,” of course, is how folks refer derogatively to the metalcore vocal styling known as “pig squealing.” The hilarious thing is that the Brokencyde dudes can’t even do a proper pig squeal. They’re appropriating a derogatory term and then bungling the execution. Comedy gold! (Also, best Youtube comment ever: “ha, the world is a strange place & white people are funny.”)
Another case in point, pretty much anything on Rise Records, like this utterly hilarious Autotuned crap from Attack Attack! (be sure to make it to the 2:46 mark for maximum amusement). Worth noting that these guys are ridiculously, shamelessly awful even in their name, as they were founded a year after Welsh band Attack! Attack!
If I were the type to declare things as harbingers of the decline of Western civilization, the popularity of this kind of stuff would probably make the list.
I’ve been AWOL for a while because I’ve been dealing with my own personal version of swine flu. Worse than any flu I can remember having, but not THE swine flu. Anyway, I’m more or less back, my head has recovered to the point that listening to music no longer makes me want to plug my ears while grimacing in agony, and I’ll be posting again.
Tomorrow I go see Mastodon, Kylesa and Intronaut. Really I’m most interested in Kylesa. The more I listen to the new Mastodon the more I sigh in sadness at how they’ve changed. Cosmo Lee pretty much sums up my feelings: “After only a minute, I was violently allergic. That singing - ouch. I felt as if an old friend had showed up in a shiny new Hummer. Something had changed irreparably.”
A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco, in part to visit an old friend, in part to see a few shows of John Zorn’s 6-night residency at Yoshi’s. I wrote all about the concerts I saw over at the City Paper, but the brief summary is: Bar Kokhba: wow!; The Dreamers: meh; Electric Masada: holy shit my life is complete. Also: Yoshi’s is a pretty sweet place to see jazz. A little swanky for my tastes, but the one-item minimum is quite reasonable (much better than, say, the $10 minimum at fucking Blues Alley here in DC) and the sushi is totally amazing. Also, for the last Electric Masada set I had fantastic seats up in the balcony, dead center, perfect view of everything.
I also stumbled into Aquarius Records - I am on their mailing list but kind of forgot they’re in SF, and was wandering around my friend’s neighborhood when we came across it. What a great store. As in the pic above, they have these hand-printed reviews taped onto every single CD they sell in the store. Really, every single one. Very obvious that the people who work here love their music. Props!
And, of course, I went to Amoeba Music, which is a very very dangerous place for me, and I walked out with…
Seriously, what a fantastic store. I got almost all of those used and cheap. I don’t even know what that Earth album is - it’s an official live album on Southern Lord, but it’s apparently out of print and a Google search turns up very little information. I’ve listened to it once so far and it seems pretty solid. Nothing transcendent but a pretty accurate representation of Earth live. I still want to track down a copy of Live Hex though…
Seriously, just don’t bother reading anything on the Internet today. It’s all people making up preposterous lies and attempting to be funny, for the sake of a stupid not-even-holiday.
Yeah and if that Joanna Newsomnews turns out to be an early April Fool’s Day hoax (the thought just occurred to me and I got chills of dread) I swear I’m going to start a grassroots campaign to ban the whole damned idea.
For those of you coming here from the Ground & Sky main site, welcome to the redesigned blog! It’s still a work in progress - the banner at the top will change (until very recently I had the blog on a black background; now that I’ve changed it to make it easier to read, I need a new idea for a banner), and I’m still not quite done tagging and categorizing all the old entries. Lots of the old internal links will not work right now, either.
I’ve ported nearly 10 years’ worth of blog posts into this new platform, but unfortunately have not been able to move the old comments over. That might happen eventually, but not yet.
As for Ground & Sky itself, it is dormant but not completely dead. You’ll notice a few new reviews posted today (thanks Joe!). I will be periodically posting reviews still, but no promises as to frequency of updates. I’m still trying to figure out a good balance between contributing to the Washington City Paper, where I’ve been blogging for a few months as well as writing the occasional review for the print edition, and continuing work on Ground & Sky.
I have had enough people ask “what happened to Ground & Sky?” to convince me that it’s certainly an endeavor worth continuing. Thank you all for your interest. Please subscribe to this feed and keep your eyes open for new stuff at the site!
My old blogging “platforms” did not support post titles, per se (the date and time of the post stood in as the title). I am in the process of literally going through every single old post and adding a title (this is as much for my reference, and my entertainment, as anything else). Until I get through with that task, the old posts may look kind of weird in this current layout.
Said layout, also, is likely to change, so don’t get too used to it.
Finally, I am looking into the feasibility of importing all the old comments into the new system. This may or may not be doable with a minimum of pain, and for this particular enterprise I don’t think my pain tolerance is going to be too high.
Until these things are done, this new blog platform won’t officially go live, but I’ve activated Technorati integration etc already, so I know folks will find their way here before then. For those of you: this thing is still in a preliminary stage.
It’s kind of amazing to this that this blog contains my scattershot ramblings on music over almost the last decade. Looking back, I’ve written more than my share of asinine and embarrassing crap, but some of this is pretty entertaining.
Anyway, in 1999 this thing started as a static HTML page that I updated manually, on a clunky website using HTML frames (those were the bad old days). By 2002 I had rewritten the entire website to be at least slightly dynamic, using PHP scripts to read data from text files (still no database-driven content), and the blog followed suit. Somewhere around 2005 I kicked around the idea of using PHP and MySQL to recreate the website in a database-driven form, and even started writing my own blogging platform. However, I didn’t have the time or motivation to see it through, and in part I’m glad, because there are now lots of blogging platforms out there far superior to anything I could possibly write.
So after a couple relatively painless hours of work I’ve ported all the content from my blog into this WordPress blog, thus bringing it into the Web 2.0 era. Still got to nail down what look & feel I want (right now this is just the same thing I use for my photography blog), but getting the content moved is a good start. Hopefully this means I’ll actually start writing in this thing again, at least occasionally - looking back over the last 9 years of posts convinced me that this is something worth keeping up.
I will now dump a very long, slightly edited, quite relevant excerpt from my personal journal here:
This is the role music plays in my life. I talk about it a lot, yet somehow I fear that the essence of its effect on me gets lost in the shuffle. The real importance of music to me, I think, is the close relation it has to my emotion and memory. Emotion: stuff like Sigur Rós, Mogwai, some King Crimson, After Crying, and so on is so heartbreakingly beautiful that I get sucked into it.
Memory: Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, a somewhat dull album by any other standards, has a special place in my heart because it brings back incredible memories of a bus ride to Florida in 7th grade. Boston’s Walk On, a sort of music that I should despise given most of the stuff I like, also has a special meaning to me because of its contemporaneity (is that a word?) to the beginning of my relationship with my first girlfriend. Änglagård’s Epilog is similar in its relation to the beginning of my relationship with my current girlfriend. There’s even random shit like Djam Karet’s Reflections from the Firepool bringing back a wash of glowing memories of me reading Stephen Donaldson’s utterly stunning fantasy series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (a highly, highly depressing story, incidentally). Or Rush’s Counterparts reminding me of the time I spent in 10th grade living in my brother’s room simply because I wanted a change of scenery. Or King Crimson’s “Starless”, aside from being the single most beautiful piece ever, reminding me of the times I’d pull into the Career Center parking lot with the bone-crushing finale screaming out my windows.
A couple more thoughts on music: first, Sigur Rós. I’ve already name-dropped them a couple times in this entry, but now I’ll elaborate: Ágætis byrjun is a fucking masterpiece. Someone on the Web wrote, “How perversely ironic that only Icelanders have found a way to pack a winters’ worth of radiant warmth onto five inches of plastic.” Oh, it’s so amazing. “Warm” is precisely the right adjective. Also “beautiful”, “uplifting”, and lots of other superlatives that I might have already used. It’s one of those things, like “Starless”, that when I try to think of how to describe how it affects me, words come up utterly short. I mean, this is stuff that makes my heart skip beats, especially when combined with the emotional havoc that I’ve been going through. It all sounds like pretentious hyperbole, but it’s not.
Second, music addiction: a fascinating topic and one that, perhaps, might be applied to me in the future. A few sample posts on rec.music.progressive:
There are things I want to do while I’m still young, and music just isn’t as important to me now. In fact, I’ve realized that my music collection is an enormous distraction from what really is important to me.
Hehe. I have been thinking the exact same thoughts lately. There is a lot that I want to do while I am still young, and having 3000 LPs and 900 CDs sitting around in my apartment (and my parents’ basement) is not only a pain in the ass but also a great psychological weight. Nothing to keep your collector’s instinct flaming than having two bookcases full of LPs and crates and stacks lying around. Not only are they hard to move around, but every time I settle down to do stuff, they wink and beckon and next thing you know, I’m on Gnosis and eBay and doing the rounds once more — finding out about groups and musicians, buying, selling, etc etc.
I’m pretty sure I would be kicking myself if I sold off a bunch of stuff, but I almost see this as an all-or-nothing type of deal. If I sell a few but keep a bunch of others, I will be forever lamenting the good stuff I sold. If I sell it all and throw myself whole-heartedly into whatever else I want/need to be doing (in my case is getting full-time into animation and other creative pursuits and also circumnavigating the globe either on foot or on bicycle, for starters), then I will just get rid of the emotional baggage that comes with having a collection as well. And no lost time sifting through the stacks picking stuff to listen to. It’s almost a habit I’d be breaking. In Alan Zweig’s amazing documentary “Vinyl”, the only happy guy in the whole film is a guy who is a hardcore collector, who sold thousands of LPs (his entire collection) and bought himself a horse.
So, as more packages arrive in my PO Box of CDs and vinyl, I am thinking the same thoughts. My cop-out solution is to store it all and come back to it later. Though, selling it all would finance all the ventures I only think about but never end up doing. It’s a tough choice. A friend of mine recently got rid of all his CDs and records (and he was a pretty rabid collector). He said “I’m tired of just listening to other people’s music without contributing”. He bought himself music and recording gear with the money and hasn’t looked back — he is the happiest and most confident I have ever seen him in the years I have known him. So, it’s food for thought.
Of course, since I have been at this for about 10 years, it is a hard habit to break. So it’s something I will probably continue to struggle with until I come to some sort of consensus.
— Piotr D.
Exactly. It’s weighing me down so much it’s like an addiction for me. I can’t stop buying CD’s. There’s so much beautiful music out there and I have to have it all. The only way to stop this is to cut myself off completely. Addictions need extreme measures.
Hearing new music used to make me feel great. Knowing there were CD’s coming in the mail any day would put me in such a great mood. Just the anticipation would get me high. All that’s over now. It’s as if my hobby has taken over. I no longer feel the excitement of waiting for packages of CD’s to arrive and hearing new music. It’s time to move on.
Fascinating thoughts. I never considered them before. Perhaps there will come a time when music has become too dominant in my life, when I no longer feel the excitement of opening up a new CD. I hope not, but should the time come, I hope that I will have enough strength to dump it all and move on, as this Mindgrind character is doing. It’s a very admirable thing, I think, to part with something to care about so much in the hopes that the end result will be much improved. And it has a lot of parallels to a certain ordeal I’m going through right now… hmm.
but I never want to fear anything that I say
and I never want to stop you
or keep you from play
and I never never never never ever
want to run away
from my own life
one day (when there’s fairer weather)
one day (when you feel much better)
one day soon (when it’s so much clearer)
one day soon
none of this will matter