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Borrowing CDs from the radio station

My apologies for being utterly delinquent in updating the website. I usually refrain from giving my reasons/excuses, but I feel like whining, so here: I have three books to read, three papers to write, and two problems sets to complete, all in the next week. Plus, Yale Cup, an Ultimate tournament here at Yale, is next weekend, and it involves coordinating the activities of some six hundred athletes (some from as far as Texas or Utah) for two days and one to three nights. Hence, I’ve been busy, which is still no excuse, I guess.

My two latest borrowed items from the radio station have been The Fucking ChampsIV and Einstürzende Neubauten’s Silence is Sexy. I listened to the latter album first, while doing some homework, and it did nothing for me. IV has been in my CD player almost constantly for the past five days, though. It’s mostly instrumental guitar-rock — I hear influences ranging from punk to metal to King Crimson (a bit). It’s all electric; usually I find this sort of thing monochromatic and grating - even 80s Crimson turns me off after just one or two listens. However, for some reason I was captivated by this stuff - maybe it’s the melodicism, the complexity hiding underneath the stereotypically metal-sounding riffs. I dunno. I’m going to buy this album soon.

As for Silence is Sexy, I listened to it again, and now I find it absolutely fascinating. There’s an intriguing mix of whimsically (insanely?) bouncy, catchy stuff and subdued, muted, repetitive, subtle stuff. The former is flat-out fun: techno-ish backbeats and a sense of humor bring Höyry-kone to mind, oddly enough. The latter stuff is transcendent: a few listens to the opening track or “Redukt” really bring out very small, subtle parts of the music that are truly beautiful, stimulating, and unique. Even the spoken word piece “Beauty”, juxtaposed against a droning, almost (but not quite) static background, has a certain air of mystery and intrigue to it. The closing track of the first disc is a beautiful and appropriate ending. The only piece I really don’t get is the sole track on the second disc, the nearly 20-minute long “Pelikanol”, which features an endless interplay between laid-back vocals and what is listed as a drill. Hmm. In any case, this is an album that really rewards close attention - leaving it on as background music isn’t going to cut it. Highly recommended to those who enjoy more experimental Krautrock and post-rock.

In Rob Kroes’ book If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Seen The Mall (1996), which I am reading for a paper, he writes in his chapter on rap music:

Instead of seeking fusions and crossovers, black artists, fearing a renewed expropriation of what they consider to be their cultural property, have time and again resorted to a strategy of defiant protectionism. Thus, for example, bebop was meant to take jazz music to such dizzying heights of complexity that white musicians could no longer hope to steal and adapt it. More recently, similar trends seem to have occurred in rap music. In their lyrics some of the more notorious rap groups express a vicious sexism and racism, an utter obscenity and nihilism, whose sole aim may seem to be to erect barriers beyond which white groups will fear to tread.

I’m not sure this thesis holds up to scrutiny. Obscenity and violence, after all, have long been a big part of hip-hop - old-school gangsta-rap groups like NWA are arguably as offensive as anything out there today; this is not a new phenomenon. And the emergence of Eminem indicates that perhaps there are no “barriers beyond which white groups will fear to tread”.

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