Working on a book puts you in an odd, single-minded headspace. I’m writing a proposal for a second book right now. When I was working on my Eno book, I stopped listening to new records completely for a while. I spent two years listening mostly to silence, and 1970s analog electronic music. (I spent a very happy month listening to nothing but Cluster.) Then my book was finished, and I got back into listening to new dance music. I downloaded tons of new DJ mixes; I followed links on Twitter and various blogs, looking for what to download next. But amid all this downloading, I realized that I was missing a crucial part of the picture. I wrote an essay for Frieze last week, to be published in the next issue, about dance music and social context. A lot of this music I loved was site-specific; it didn’t make much sense to me without going out and hearing it, allowing myself to be overwhelmed by an experience.
I realized this on a recent trip back to Berlin, where I lived for a while in 2005. I’ve been going back to Berlin every six months or so for the past ten years; in a lot of ways, it’s a second home for me. In Berlin, everything started to make sense to me again. There was a plethora of venues, labels, magazines, record stores — a whole, vast ecosystem supporting the electronic music I loved. It’s an odd fantasy land of sorts, a place where your taxi driver knows where Berghain is (after all, he was there last week); a place where the music playing at the restaurant is the same music that was playing at Hard Wax.
And now I’ve plunged myself back into engaging with new records. I’ll be at DEMF and MUTEK, and I’m moving back to New York in the coming months, where the current music scene has really started encouraging me again. And art: I’m as much into visual art these days as I’m into music. I flipped back through some old blog posts I’d written, from the deep past, and I found that there were several moments where I fell out of loving music, and then fell right back in love with it again. Falling in and out of love with new music is fine. It’s healthy! It’s a pattern, not a problem. And it’s a circular pattern; I always come running back a month or two later.
2008: “When I was caught up in thinking about music full time, writing to pay the rent, getting promos, dealing with labels, and just trying to keep up with the relentless breakneck pace of all of those bits being pushed around the Web, I started to hate music, and I had to step back for a while. I could no longer keep up with every new release. I started avoiding new releases. I went through one moody month in which I listened to nothing but Sun Ra’s entire discography. Then cycled through other stuff — Coltrane, Ayler, old disco records.”
2007: “I still find myself gravitating to techno, but I find myself less interested in ingesting the very latest 12″ release, and more intrigued by half-forgotten older records played on repeat.”
2006: “I haven’t listened to much new music over the past month. I’ve inherited a pair of Technics 1200s, on extended loan, and I’ve gotten obsessed with buying vinyl. I’m not talking new vinyl here; this is strictly dollar-bin material. I spend literally hours on weekends sifting through dusty old crates on floors in anonymous Brooklyn record shops and thrift shops, looking for that ruby in the rough.”
2005: “I haven’t been listening to music for weeks, which is strange. It’s partially because all of my CDs and vinyl are in storage – stacked and packed neatly away in black milk crates — and my stereo isn’t even plugged in. I’d been thinking about selling all of my records. It was such a pain to move my record collection to a new apartment; sometimes I think my record collection is like a kidney machine or a catheter, something bulky and faintly embarrassing that I’ll have to drag around forever to keep myself in working order. And with the recent death of someone I’d known for years and years, music suddenly seems more irrelevant than ever. I’m finding that mourning the loss of somebody you knew is a gradual process; it’s not something that’s over in a week; it’s something that takes time…[but] because remembering is how the healing process begins, suddenly music seems more important than ever.”
2004: “Sometimes when I get tired of writing about music, I review things like videocameras. Cons: No hot tunes. Pros: 3 CCDs and a sweet Leica zoom lens.”