Archive for January, 2001

Music, life, emotion

Tuesday, January 30th, 2001

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.
— “Mindgrind”

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.
— “Mindgrind”

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

Grey Eye Glances, “One Day Soon”

The Dismemberment Plan in New Haven

Friday, January 26th, 2001

Well, I got those CDs from Greg Walker (except the Dün, damn), and having given each of them a very cursory listen each, I think I can safely say that I like them all so far. Score!

I went to see Dismemberment Plan play last night, at the Tune Inn Cafe, a club no more than three or four blocks from where I live. Solid show. I had some issues with the sound - the guitars sounded rather wall-of-noisish, without much definition (very, very different from the clear sound on the album I have, Emergency & I), and the keys were mixed too low, and the vocal mic was pretty shitty-sounding. But the band managed to do a good show even despite these problems. “A Life of Possibilities” shredded. They also did, from Emergency & I, “What Do You Want Me to Say”, “You are Invited”, “Gyroscope”, “The City”, “8 1/2 Minutes” (which apparently they rarely do live), and “Back and Forth”. There were some older songs I didn’t recognize and wasn’t that keen on, but they also did three new songs that were very good.

The opening bands were two I’d never heard of; one was tolerable, the other was absolutely fucking terrible. I mean, as in one of the worst bands I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing live. Mother of God, it was bad. For their opening number, which was four or five minutes long, the drummer literally played the same beat on the same drum at the same tempo for the entire song, without playing a single fill, roll, or anything of the sort. The guitarist and bassist were doing similar things, playing the same chord really fast over and over again. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of why they sucked… I’m afraid words can’t describe.

Kid Koala’s scratch-fest Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is intruiging me. At first it struck me as rather… irritating, but it doesn’t really annoy me that much any more. I’ll have to give it another few spins (so to speak) before I figure out exactly what the hell I think about it. It doesn’t help that I have absolutely no familiarity with this type of music. And how exactly do you categorize the sound of a guy fucking around with a couple of turntables? It was in the “dance” section of Cutler’s, but whoever dances to this shit is seriously messed up.

Recent purchases from Syn-Phonic

Sunday, January 21st, 2001

I just made an order from Greg Walker that I’m highly excited about:

These are some of the few prog albums topping my wish list; most of the remaining ones that are high priority are non-prog: Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst, Kid Koala Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Sigur Rós Von (I already ordered Ágætis byrjun from Insound), Autechre Incunabula, Mogwai Ten Rapid, and so on and so forth. I must say, though, I’m more excited about this Syn-Phonic order than I have been about most any music for a few months.

I can’t really get into Italian prog

Saturday, January 20th, 2001

I listened to PFM’s Per un Amico last night. I’ve been trying to get into this album for a year or so, and it just isn’t happening. I think that music I like follows one of two criteria: it’s either beautiful and evokes some sort of emotional response (a pretty wide criterion), or it rocks out. Per un Amico, were it to fall into one of those two categories, would certainly fit in the former rather than the latter; but I think that whatever beauty I might find in it is cancelled out by the dated sound of the entire album. You know, the muffled drum sound, the hollow keyboard timbres, that sort of thing - I don’t deal with that very well. Which is probably also why I haven’t really gotten into 1970s Italian symphonic prog much.

I still like, after a fashion, Per un Amico, but it will never be one of my favorites.

Damn: not only did a bunch of grad students at the Yale School of Music play a Steve Reich concert last week, which apparently left no ass unkicked, but Steve Reich himself was in attendance! How the hell do I manage to miss these things?

Do I hear engines?

Friday, January 19th, 2001

How do lyrics that one has not heard for months, and that are completely unrelated to anything one is doing or experiencing, suddenly randomly pop into one’s head? Today I found myself unable to get not one, but two lines out of my head: “Do I hear engines?” (Thinking Plague) and “butt naked, streakin’ through the ever murky streets of the urbanized areas” (Tribe Called Quest). I mean, what the hell. I haven’t listened to either of the albums in question for a really long time, and neither line had ever particularly stood out for me. So why would they suddenly resurface out of the depths of my subconscious and assert themselves so vigorously that I’ve been singing them over and over and over ad nauseum?

Speaking of Thinking Plague, if I’d listened to “Pinwheel” from Regarding Purgatories blind, I would have sworn it was from some new album by that band.

I’ve been spinning Deltron 3030’s self-titled album a lot recently. It’s a “hip-hopera”, a rap album with a wildly farfetched concept and futuristic bleeps and swooshes to accompany it. The music is great: Dan Nakamura and Kid Koala are right on the money with solid beats, some great “orchestration” (I have no idea how to express that concept in hip-hop-speak), and great turntable work (of which I actually think there should be a lot more). However, I can’t say that I’m sold on Del tha Funkee Homosapien (what the fuck?) and his MC style. Just doesn’t seem particularly smooth, and it seems like his lyrics throw in as many scientific and technological buzzwords (read: this is nerd-hop) without actually saying much that’s meaningful. Oh well, I still like it.

My radio show is live!

Tuesday, January 16th, 2001

The first instance of In Praise of Listening, my weekly radio show at WYBC 1340 AM, happened last night. Response from some of my unwitting friends ranged from grudging approval to “Nice music, buddy! What the hell is wrong with you?” Heh.

I am, once again, sick as all hell, so rather than do homework and force my head to hurt even more than it already does, I’m wasting away my time writing in various journals and listening to soothing music. Rachel’s came up recently in rec.music.progressive, so I’m now listening to Selenography, quite an excellent album. Unfortunately, since I’m preventing myself from deep thought, I don’t have much to say about it at this point.

Massive Attack’s “Daydreaming” (from Blue Lines) reminds me, oddly enough, of something by David Sylvian.

This last bit made me so curious that I looked at the Sylvian albums I have. The answer: I think the repetitive beat reminds me of “Darshan”, and the lyrics probably remind me of “20th Century Dreaming”… both tracks, actually, being from the album Sylvian did with Robert Fripp, The First Day. Good album, incidentally.

Ironic survey results at Ghostland

Saturday, January 13th, 2001

I find the survey results at Ghostland rather curious: a large plurarity of those surveyed indicate that “complexity” is the element that most attracts them to progressive rock, yet companies such as InsideOut Music and Magna Carta - hardly companies known for releasing particularly complex or intricate music - top the list of “favorite labels”. Further, the overall vibe one gets is that of a group of fans that appreciates traditional symphonic prog, neo-prog and prog-metal more than anything else.

One wonders, then: if these particular fans are so attracted to musical complexity, what turns them away from the more avant-garde forms of progressive rock? Why are they content with traditional symphonic prog and neo-prog, which, while more musically intricate than your typical pop music, I suppose, are often far from truly “complex”?

Synergy

Friday, January 12th, 2001

Holy shit: I just want to clarify that I wrote yesterday’s bit about Mogwai BEFORE I read this.

Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word
Massive Attack, “Teardrop”

What’s spinning, January 11 edition

Thursday, January 11th, 2001

Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry about that. I got a bunch of non-prog Christmas loot and am only now getting back to the genre that this site covers, which is a partial explanation for that little hiatus. The other reason is simply that I like to be lazy over Christmas break.

For anyone interested, I re-designed my personal home page in my spare time. Probably isn’t much there of interest, but I figured I’d mention it.

So anyway, what non-prog stuff have I been listening to the most? Let’s see:

  • Grant Green - Idle Moments - nice, melodic, accessible jazz
  • Massive Attack - Mezzanine - sleepy yet engaging
  • Mogwai - Young Team - the first track is absolutely stunning
  • Mogwai - EP+2 - truly a work of genius
  • Squarepusher - Music is Rotted One Note - eh. Quite interesting, but I prefer the MP3s I have from Hard Normal Daddy.
  • STSI, Musicians of - Music of the Gamelan Gong Kebyar - not the best introduction to Balinese gamelan, but not bad overall
  • Sun Ra - When Angels Speak of Love - “sounds like a train wreck”, one of my friends said. I like it.

Why do I like Mogwai so much? I think it’s their potential energy, as I’d put it: that is, most of the time their music is simmering quietly, seeming very relaxed yet also seeming on the verge of exploding into a powerful wall of noise. What should be sleep-inducing actually keeps me on my toes more than lots of other music, just because it seems like things are about to blow up. Also, it seems Mogwai are one of the few bands that realize that loud-fast and soft-slow aren’t the only ways to make music: there are a lot of loud-slow parts that seem novel to me. Some of the feedback manipulation on EP+2 - the last track has a particularly touching bit - almost makes tears come to my eyes, it’s so effective. I really can’t explain it… it’s just that some of their pieces (”Yes! I am a long way from home” from Young Team, or “Rage:Man” and “Small Children in the Background” from EP+2) are some of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long, long time. Funny, I don’t find the same joys in Come On Die Young. I’ll have to give it an extra spin to figure out why.