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Archive for February, 2001

Mos Def, electric Miles, and more

Saturday, February 24th, 2001

For some reason, I just can’t seem to really get into Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides. I can’t really put my finger on why, but if I had to guess, I think it’s because the production gets in the way. It’s too forward in the mix, and distracts from the actual rapping. Also, it tends to be quite choppy and stop-and-go, which makes it still more distracting. The whole affair, because the production is so loud and so distinctive, gets to be overbearing after a while.

After reading on the ProgAndOther list that Miles DavisAura is probably the best of his otherwise pedestrain 80s output (complete with weird time sigs, spacey synth work, and John McLaughlin), I picked it up on a whim today (also got the new Tortoise). I must say, I don’t much like it. The electronic drums really rub me the wrong way, especially when they lay into lame beats, as in the first half of “Orange”. Davis’ soloing is still great, but I can’t get over those goddamn drums. Oh well.

I was at an interesting party last night in which the music consisted of two guys improvising (quite skillfully, I’d have to say) on acoustic guitars, one on dulcimer, and one playing percussion with hardcover books and metal cups. It was pretty damn cool. Someone there mentioned that she always thought the dulcimer was a much, much better instrument than the guitar, with a sweeter, more soulful sound. I’d have to agree that it has a very pleasant timbre, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a better instrument necessarily. Hmm.

Recently I’ve been listening a lot to the new Mori Stylez album. It’s in a similar vein as their first album, but a bit more polished and with much more emphasis on the wind instruments. I like it a lot, but some of the compositions are still a bit too long. I’ll write a full review soon… it’s taking me a lot longer than I expected to digest the whole thing.

Thievery Corporation, Don Cab, and the Broof

Thursday, February 15th, 2001

Re the genrefication of Thievery Corporation: AMG says acid jazz. Josh says downtempo. Meanwhile, on rmp, there’s been mention of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). Here’s another page about IDM. Pretty interesting stuff.

I picked up Don Caballero’s American Don from the station today after returning The Mirror Conspiracy. I’m quite indifferent to it, but given my general indifference to 80s King Crimson, and the vague comparisons between these two that seem to go on, this probably isn’t too surprising. I mean, I can see that it’s good stuff for certain people, but it’s not stuff that I’m particularly interested in.

I don’t know where Noah Lesgold found this quote that he put in his sig, but it’s great:

I love seeing the whites of an audience’s eyes instead of being stuck in the back and seeing John Wetton’s ass. Life for me is a series of asses that I played behind. Adrian Belew has got a very nice ass, slim. John Wetton’s is a little bigger. Jon Anderson’s is very small. Nice legs, lousy ass. It’s a series of asses.
— Bill Bruford

Thoughts on The Mirror Conspiracy

Wednesday, February 14th, 2001

Okay, some comments on the Thievery Corporation disc: to me, it feels like a mellow, sometimes loungey kind of trip-hop without the hip-hop. It’s a blend of electronic music and much warmer, more acoustic elements such as soft vocals and hand percussion. I am, of course, utterly uneducated in this kind of music, hence my use of genre names that probably don’t apply. But a lot of the instrumental parts, especially those with symphonic-esque keyboard washes and the like, remind me of Air or instrumental Massive Attack or the like. I like the use of various ethnic instruments, most obviously the sitar, to spice up some of the tracks. So, overall, this is pretty cool stuff, and remains interesting throughout. But I find it hard to get really excited by it: in the end, I’d probably buy it if I found it used somewhere, but I don’t think I’d go out and hunt it down.

For some reason it never occurred to me that Sigur Rós‘ vocals - the high-pitched, androgynous vocals that they are - might turn people off. That’s a shame - I think the vocals are one of the main reasons their music is so beautiful. Oh well.

Transatlantic is coming out with a new double-live album, according to the Spock’s Beard mailing list. What the hell? Those guys did like ten shows total last year, many of them beset by technical difficulties. Their show at NEARfest, frankly, sucked. And this warrants not only a live album, but a double? You know, these guys are in the wrong genre of music to be trying to get on a money train.

Free music

Tuesday, February 13th, 2001

Something new: since I can borrow CDs from the radio station one at a time, and they have a pretty big archive of indie-rock type stuff, I’m going to jot down brief thoughts about each one I borrow and deliver a verdict about whether or not I want to buy a copy for myself. Up first is Automator’s A Much Better Tomorrow, which I borrowed last week. It’s a hip-hop album with some pretty cool jazzy instrumental tracks that I really like, and a couple of duff tracks where the rapping just doesn’t work for me. I wasn’t planning on buying a copy, but 75 Ark is selling them for $6.29 new (!), so I did.

This week, I’ve got Thievery Corporation’s The Mirror Conspiracy. It’s nothing particularly exciting. Not bad, though. Obviously I haven’t listened to it enough, or gotten excited enough about it, to say anything interesting yet. Hmph.

Ken Burns’ war against modern jazz

Monday, February 12th, 2001

Something really interesting about Ken Burns and his bias against fusion.

I’m somewhat disappointed by Sigur RósVon (their 1997 debut album only released in Iceland), which I got a few days ago. It’s pretty good, much more laid-back than Ágætis byrjun, more subtle and less over-the-top. But somehow I feel like it’s missing the magic that makes Ágætis byrjun so damn good. Hmm… a few more listens are needed, I guess.

The CMJ New Music Report gave the new Tortoise a glowing review. This one looks to be a definite must-get.

Sticky and twitching

Friday, February 9th, 2001

The Yale Herald, a weekly paper that tends to review a lot of indie-rock for whatever reason, reviewed the forthcoming Tortoise album, Standards (due February 20, I think) this issue. The review is quite positive and really whets my appetite, but I’m confounded by the following statement: “Standards is deep-fried funk that will leave your groin sticky and unable to stop twitching.” What the hell?

Vanity Googling

Tuesday, February 6th, 2001

A fit of curiosity caused me to search for my own name at Google. It turned up a bunch of things I never knew about: like a bunch of shareware archives where some ancient DOS menuing program I wrote in QuickBASIC has been uploaded. What the hell? I wrote that piece of crap probably seven years ago. Sheesh. On a more related note, it also turned up a page in which Quarkspace, or someone affiliated with them, pokes fun at me in response to my review of The Hidden Moon. Ah, what the hell. I stand by my opinion.

Pitchfork is too cool for you

Monday, February 5th, 2001

On second thought, I will comment on the quote I posted here yesterday. Why would the reviewer praise Metallica’s music so much (”talent for writing incredible, theatrical pieces of music”, “best heavy metal in existence”) and then up and call then “bad”? Seems to me that he’s got the mentality of, well, since they’re so “unstylish”, they can’t be good even if I happen to like a couple of their pieces. Or even if they are among the best of their genre. I’m too cool to like those has-beens. I’m hipper than thou.

Man, fuck that.

On a completely unrelated note: here’s a nice Godspeed You Black Emperor! FAQ, courtesy of the gybe! mailing list.

Pitchfork on Metallica

Sunday, February 4th, 2001

Quote sans comment, from Pitchfork’s review of the Apocalyptica album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos:

Something else about this release is that it also displays Metallica’s talent for writing incredible, theatrical pieces of music. While the classic metal band may be unstylish and… well… kind of bad, in general, they’ve produced some of the best heavy metal in existence by writing what is essentially classical music played loudly. Of course, that was before the Load hit. Now they’re just five years late for a money train headed for Seattle.

How to prevent overlistening?

Saturday, February 3rd, 2001

This hasn’t happened for a while: I’ve been listening to Ágætis byrjun so much that I’m quite afraid of burning out on it. I’ve heard of people not letting themselves listen to any given album more than once per day to prevent this from happening, but I wonder: is that what I really want to do? I get the urge to listen to this album several times a day; should I frustrate myself by setting limits, so that I can enjoy the album further into the future? Is it worth it?

I don’t know, but my guess is: probably.