Archive for March, 2003

Föld és ég is awesome

Monday, March 31st, 2003

Shame on me for letting myself forget how amazing Föld és ég is. “Kétezer év” has got to be one of the most purely gorgeous pieces of music ever recorded. It struck me as I listened to it last night (at a huge volume - surprisingly, it’s best that way) that aside from the vocals, it’s definitely the piano work that does it for me. I think in my review I described it as “gently rolling”, which is about as good as I can do in words - it’s an unusual kind of playing, unobtrusive, not really melodic, but incredibly hypnotic. It has the quality of fading out of my consciousness when I’m listening, since it’s so repetitive and so clearly meant as a backing part, but then abruptly making me sit up and take notice when it bubbles forward in the mix and reminds me of just how beautiful it is. And then there’s the section where it disappears and all that’s left are the vocals and the hi-hat and cymbals and it all sounds so spiritual - mmm. Amazing.

The cello solo in the middle ain’t bad either.

Änglagård to play acoustic set at NEARfest

Monday, March 31st, 2003

Go check out Änglagård’s website. It’s amazing. Also contains the important news that their set at NEARfest this year will be “unplugged”.

Hint: Sweden is several time zones ahead of those of us in the United States…

Bitches Brew: it clicked!

Sunday, March 30th, 2003

Something about my listen to Bitches Brew yesterday really struck a chord with me, and I definitely enjoyed it more than I have in the past (which is saying something). It inspired me to go out and pick up some more electric Miles today, including the much-hyped Live at the Fillmore East: It’s About That Time (which I’ve wanted ever since I read Dominique’s review at Pitchfork). It’s all good stuff. This live album in particular just cooks all the way through, making the intellectual understanding I feel I lack when it comes to Bitches Brew totally irrelevant. Everything’s just more visceral - one of Miles’ solos in the first set’s “Spanish Key” is just unbelievable, pushing the trumpet way beyond what it should be capable of.

Bitches Brew: tough listen

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

It occurs to me as I listen to Miles DavisBitches Brew for the zillionth time that, although I’ve heard this album a zillion times and have enjoyed it with each listen, I still don’t have a good grasp on it. The pieces I like most (the four extended ones, particularly “Spanish Key”) are too long for me to hold them in my head all at once, and as a result I’ve never developed an understanding of their structure. (The fact that there aren’t exactly many conventionally memorable melodies obviously doesn’t help either.) As a result I always feel a bit uncomfortable listening to Bitches Brew - while at any moment I’m usually really liking what I’m hearing, I’m still unable to put any given moment into a larger context.

Guess that just means I’ll have to listen to it more.

“I havn’t heard it”

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Sean just sent me this great link. Definitely one of the best (and best-informed) reviews I’ve ever read.

What’s spinning, March 26 edition

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

I’m pretty psyched about some non-prog stuff I’ve gotten lately. Because I don’t really have anything of interest to talk about right now, here’s another list…

  • Cowboy Junkies - Lay It Down
    My favorite of their many studio albums that I’ve recently acquired, this one is just about a perfect meshing of their old-school country roots and their more conventionally rock tendencies. Beautiful and poignant in the music, vocals, and lyrics. Margo Timmins has one of the greatest voices ever.
  • Satoko Fujii Quartet - Vulcan
    After hearing Toh-Kichi, I knew I had to get my hands on this. And it doesn’t disappoint - quite the opposite! Truly fucking awesome - experimental jazz with a rhythm section that absolutely rocks (and has little to do with jazz at all). I also picked up Minerva, the quartet’s second release, but haven’t really listened to it yet as I’ve been digesting Vulcan for the past few days.
  • Kronos Quartet - Nuevo
    Perhaps the best-known avant-gardish string quartet active today performing their versions of traditional and folky Mexican tunes. Extremely - and surprisingly - eclectic, fun, and accessible. Hell, there’s even a dance mix of one of the pieces that closes the album.
  • System of a Down - Toxicity
    Cool pseudo-nu-metal stuff, rather spastic and wacky in exactly the sort of way that really catches my attention, while still being extremely hard-edged and intense. There’s also a nice balance between chugga-chugga metal riffing and more diverse guitar work, and the heavily politicized lyrics and fairly unique vocal stylings don’t hurt either.
  • Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Yeah, I’m late to get on this bandwagon. The last Wilco I heard was Being There, which I hated so much I don’t think I’ve listened to it since I first bought it on a random whim (based entirely on the cool packaging and the fact that it was $10 for two CDs) five years ago. Maybe I’ll have to go back and give it another chance, cause this album has some pretty great pop music that’s just out-there enough to be interesting while remaining readily accessible.

Listening to the words

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

Seeing as how I’ve been listening to prog rock as a genre for some five or six years now, and bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson for many more, I definitely tend to consider my musical “background” (as a listener) to be grounded in prog idioms. As a result, I think I definitely tend to give short shrift to lyrics in the music I listen to, focusing mostly on the instrumental side of things. (The obvious exception is hip-hop, where generally I have to be interested in the lyrics in order to be interested in the music.)

With that in mind, I’m going to start trying to pay more attention to lyrics, and to help myself with this little project I think I might occasionally post and comment on some lyrics that mean something to me, or that at least pique my interest for some reason. To start -

feeling so strong
i feel so inspired
like a man with all the words
i could move the world
if i weren’t so tired
Fates Warning, “So”

I feel like this verse pretty much describes my entire college experience. There’s so much stuff that I’ve encountered here in the past four years that have caught my interest and inspired me to action, and yet in the end I feel like I haven’t actually accomplished anything. I’ve spread myself too thin, particularly intellectually, and in the end I can’t focus on any one thing enough to actually achieve something meaningful. Perfect example right now is my senior essay, a paper which is should be something I’m extremely excited about and interested in - and yet I’m just too tired, too busy with other things, too unfocused to really pour all I’ve got into it and make it something I’m proud of in the end.

Hip-hop in which lyrics are secondary

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

Hmm, interesting counterexample to my assertion from the last entry that hip-hop lyrics are paramount in importance for me: Outkast. I don’t place much stock in their lyrics, but I love the music as a whole. Probably because it’s so energetic and, to risk misusing (or inventing) a term, maximalistic.

Eh, and another one is Anti-Pop Consortium, maybe. Although I really dig the flow of the rapping, which is generally absolutely amazing in its speed and cadence, the words themselves are too damn stream-of-consciousness to mean anything to me. So maybe that assertion just bullshit, and lyrics don’t necessarily take primacy for me even in hip-hop.

I might replace it with a somewhat modified contention that in hip-hop, vocals (not necessarily lyrics) are far more important than in most other genres. But that just seems like a truism. Rapping, after all, could be considered in its most basic form spoken word poetry. So obviously the voice is the key element.

Soundtrack rip-offs

Friday, March 7th, 2003

I just saw a preview for some movie called The Core. It looked absolutely terrible, with a plot that came out of a committee meeting for sure. It also used some music ripped directly from the soundtrack to The Rock, that Jerry Bruckheimer retard-o-fest from several years ago. Do a lot of films do this? Use soundtrack music composed specifically for other films? Blah.

New King Crimson: meh?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2003

And speaking of King Crimson, yesterday their new album, The Power to Believe, was released in the US. I decided I’m enough of a fanboy to go pick it up on the first day, even enough of a fanboy to pay the somewhat absurd $17.98 my local CD store was charging for it. My first impression was not favorable. Sounded like The ConstruKction of Light, only wimpier. Whatever you thought of the pseudo-nu-metal of Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With, this seemed like a step back. I’m giving it my second listen now, and predictably I’m liking it better. I’m still a bit disappointed, though - I was reading some raving reviews and (probably unrealistically) really hoping for something fresher. Ah well, it’s still King Crimson… and I’m still a fanboy.