Archive for February, 2000

On the classic that is “Starless”

Wednesday, February 16th, 2000

Listening now to “Starless”, a memory comes vividly to mind. The drive from home to school my junior and senior year in high school took just over 12 minutes. I don’t know how many days I put my tape of Red into the player, found “Starless”, and began the drive blissing out to the ballad part, then zoning out to Fripp’s guitar edginess and Bruford and Wetton’s tension-building, then pulling into the parking lot with the sound of wildly blaring horns and bone-crunching bass lines screaming out the windows. There’s a very good reason this is my favorite King Crimson song…

Napster and NEARfest

Tuesday, February 15th, 2000

Depressing fact: about 85% of the highest bandwidth users at Yale University are students using Napster, the poorly-designed, poorly-programmed, poorly-implemented MP3 sharing program that has nevertheless seen its popularity skyrocket thanks to the huge population of bored, seemingly amoral college students. The “disappearance” of Napster I cited in an entry a while back was actually an experiment by Yale’s Information Technology Services; they shut off access to all Napster servers, including the website, and traffic dropped like a rock. My question is, why did they reinstate access? I suppose that since the majority of music transferred through Napster is popular music made by artists and labels that already have plenty of money anyway, I need not be too annoyed, but something about the concept of stealing music to such an extent, no matter what the music and no matter what the state of the industry, pisses me off.

Purchased my NEARfest 2000 tix today; they went on sale at 11:00 am. Orchestra sides. Got ‘em at about 2:00; there was a big panic on rec.music.progressive, as it seems the box office at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center was overwhelmed by calls. How do these guys do it? All the other prog festivals lose all kinds of money or barely break even; NEARfest 1999 sold out in two months, and at one point it looked like NEARfest 2000, with twice as many seats (1,002), might sell out in one day! Absolutely amazing. Can’t wait to go; now time to do some research on area hotels.

Other Music and “Fuck Like a Donkey”

Sunday, February 13th, 2000

My girlfriend is visiting me up here at Yale, so updates have been a little sparse the past few days. A few things of note, though; we went to New York City for a day and I had the good fortune (bad for my wallet) of randomly running across Other Music, a fantastic weird-music store in the Village. Magma, Area, Arti & Mestieri, PFM, all kinds of psych and Krautrock and RIO, most Cuneiform releases - heaven. I managed some kind of restraint and “only” picked up three:

Aside from that, we were walking around a small open market in the Village and what did I hear but the music of Orff’s Carmina Burana set to a throbbing hip-hop beat. After hearing, on the same tape, a song called “Fuck Like a Donkey”, featuring authentic donkey noises, I figured that whoever compiled said tape must be an interesting character, and picked up the tape (Sound Factory 99 Part 2). Talk about amusing stuff - check out www.mikemike.net.

Two guests at the dinner I went to were violinists in a string quartet; one was speaking of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of being a left-handed player. It was an interesting conversation, and he brought up things that I, not being a player of any instrument, would never have otherwise thought of.

Eclat and Louis Armstrong

Thursday, February 10th, 2000

Received in the mail today a review copy of Eclat’s recently released live album En Concert on Musea. I’ve been spinning it since I got it and haven’t taken it out of the player since. Great mostly instrumental stuff, with Pink Floyd and King Crimson influences among others. I’ll save the rest of my comments for the review.

In partial answer to my previous question, it was Louis Armstrong’s influence in large part that brought jazz to solo improvisation and away from collective improv. Despite the abundance of phenomenal solo improvisers in the history of jazz, it’s kind of a shame that there weren’t more great group improv jazz bands. Apart from the somewhat annoying repetitiveness of their compositions, I kind of like the group improvs of early bands like the Original Dixieland Jass Band. Ah well.

What’s spinning, February 8 edition

Tuesday, February 8th, 2000

In anticipation of the Dixie Dregs / Dream Theater show here in New Haven in a couple weeks, I just received the Dregs‘ live King Biscuit recording yesterday. The country/Southern influences don’t turn me off, so I do like the music quite a bit, and I look forward to the show even more now.

Something straightforward today: what’s been spinning recently:

  • The Dixie Dregs - King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents - good folk-influenced fusion
  • The Flower Kings - Flower Power - still trying to figure out the hype
  • Magma - Retrospektiw II - love this version of MDK
  • Metallica - …And Justice For All - the more I listen to this the more I like it
  • Rush - Counterparts - I’d forgotten how much I like the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone”
  • Von Zamla - 1983 - surpassed Tortoise as my favorite of the 1-29-00 acquisitions

What is it about English speakers that makes them so indifferent to music sung in foreign languages? How important are lyrics to the average music listener? I’ve become so accustomed to music that stresses instrumentals over vocals that I no longer remember how much lyrics used to matter to me. Or is it just the fact that songs sung in anything other than English sound funny to an English speaker? Come to think of it, why the sudden fascination with mangling Spanish and putting random bits of it into “Latin” songs meant for American audiences?

In the depths of my gloom
I crawl out for you
From the peaks of my joy
I crawl back into
Tearing me down every time you smile
Every shining time you arrive
Sunny Day Real Estate, “Every Shining Time You Arrive”

Nice work, Vangelis

Saturday, February 5th, 2000

One of the most powerful moments in film and music, IMHO, is the end of the director’s cut version of Blade Runner. The door closes, instant fade to black, and Vangelis‘ powerful synth music pounds away at the likely emotionally shell-shocked (or at least confused as hell) viewer. Too bad this same power can’t be conveyed on a soundtrack CD.

Drum machines

Friday, February 4th, 2000

Is it really that hard to program a complex meter (or complex, changing meters) into a drum machine? If not, why do drum machines beat out boring rhythms all the time, even when they’re used in prog rock bands? Surely someone’s done it - am I missing an obvious example? Not that I’m a fan of “fake drummers” or anything, but the thought popped into my mind…

A couple new ones today… first is great, second I’m not sure about yet.

Quote of the day: “You could never run for office… your music is too weird.”

Krautrock??

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2000

Reading back over this log, a question materializes: why isn’t “Krautrock” considered a demeaning term? I think this has been discussed on rec.music.progressive, but I didn’t follow the thread closely…

Behind the ambitions
Of a child who found his way
There’s a cold realization
That our deeds die with the day
And behind the disguise
Of a man with a cause
There’s a child screaming
With nothing left to say
Fates Warning, “Nothing Left to Say”

Minimalism, metal, and more

Tuesday, February 1st, 2000

Why is Philip Glass the best-known American minimalist composer? I think some of John Adams’ work is far more interesting. One of my favorite Glass releases isn’t even really minimalist (Kronos Quartet Plays Philip Glass, a collection of his compositions for string quartet). It doesn’t get much wackier than Nixon In China, Adams’ minimalist opera which I am currently enjoying.

There was a discussion a while back on rec.music.progressive that I think is worth going over again. Heavy metal bands were often rhythmically intricate (Metallica, various technical-metal bands) or melodically interesting (Iron Maiden, Queensryche, any number of “progressive” metal bands today), but seldom both. Why is this? Had Queenryche added shifting meters and wild drumming to Operation: Mindcrime, would it have made a better record? Eh… maybe. Only two bands that combine rhythmic complexity with melodic composition into a heavy-metal framework were mentioned: Watchtower and Spastic Ink, neither of which do much for me thanks to their rather sterile sound. Are there any others out there?

I’m seriously considering the sociology major here at Yale, and I think it would be really cool to research the cultural and sociological causes and effects of progressive rock movements outside the UK. The scene in the UK has been well-documented (Macan, Stump, et al), as perhaps has the Krautrock scene, but I haven’t seen any substantial insights into the Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Eastern European, or modern Scandinavian or South American scenes. Hmm.