an aerial photographer overexposed.
Finally saw the exhibits running at the ICP that I'd been meaning to see for about two months, on the very last day they were open. The titles of the exhibits alone push all the right Geeta-buttons: "Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina: Photography and Montage after Constructivism" (Russian communists!) "Expanding Vision: László Moholy-Nagy’s Experiments of the 1920s" (the Bauhaus!) and "The Art of Science Imaging the Future: The Intersection of Science, Technology and Photography" (science!) But the exhibit I didn't know about--of heartbreaking larger-than-life Iraq war photographs, exposing every lurid detail in vivid, multidimensional colors--stole the show. This is the point in my blog post where I cleverly relate this to the Susan Sontag essay in the NY Times Magazine last week, but I'm too exhausted.
The science exhibit totally sucked (MRI scans are really cool, but a bunch of lame animations of brains being activated in different locations is not cool--you can see better brain-art in a Hollywood movie! C'mon!), but the post-Constructivism one and the Moholy-Nagy one were worthwhile. Russian one creepy--lots of floating, disembodied heads of Lenin, lots of very Constructivist-style hypergeometric stuff. My favorite part was the series of photomontages emphasizing the role of sports in Russian life. People with severe, pained faces and frighteningly defined muscles doing calisthenics for the good of the country. . .
And Moholy-Nagy was a rockin' guy, but you knew that already. The exhibit was pretty small, but there was some key stuff on tap. I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the work he did under the Bauhaus umbrella, but I'd never seen the first film he did, called Berlin Still Life. Just a bunch of shakily-shot street scenes of Berlin, basically, but it had a very "My First Movie" feel to it, which I thought was cool. I love seeing how artists developed their styles, and how they experimented with mediums they weren't used to--you could really sense this excited "Dude, check out this film camera!!" vibe. Then, some of Moholy-Nagy's notes for a film, which read like someone arguing with himself on paper. Moholy-Nagy never really spelled out a script or storyboarded things out; instead, he made vague, impressionistic notes about how he wanted the film to feel. So he wrote a bunch of ideas out in random parts of a page and drew arrows between them. Then he wrote "TEMPO! TEMPO! TEMPO! TEMPO!" over and over, to remind himself that his film was about the rhythm of things.
05.31.04 @ 12:35 AM EST [link]
Spent the entire day in Central Park, re-reading Ocean of Sound on a grassy hill, shaded by the flowering branches of a giant tree. Had the most wonderful miniature fruit tart from the neighborhood bakery Payard Patisserie--it looked so architectural I could barely eat it. A stack of thinly sliced fruit precariously balanced, Tower-of-Pisa-stylee, atop a delicate almond custard on this teensy bit of crust flecked with bits of coconut . . . all of three bites, but I'll be damned if eating that under the sun in the park didn't make me think it was just about the best kind of Saturday in the world.
05.30.04 @ 03:34 AM EST [link]
public service announcement.
People, if you write full-time or have any kind of job that requires staring at a computer for hours each day, go get a back massage. Now. After a solid week of inexplicable back pain, I got one today and now I feel like I'm floating on clouds. Little fluffy ones. There's more spring in my step, my posture's improved, the sun's more shining-er, and this Kompakt 100 mix is sounding about ten times better than everyone is telling me it is.
05.28.04 @ 08:39 PM EST [link]
Hung out in my friend's band's practice space tonight, in this great, kind of seedy building that's all band practice spaces. Beer cans, a leopard-print couch (with matching rug!), a drum kit covered in a garish orange holographic pattern, the stench of stale smoke, graffiti scrawls on the walls--it reminded me of my old place, actually. My friend's band is more on the noise tip--they know they'll never make it--but most of the rock bands in the building are trying for radio hits. Which is a totally cool aspiration--it's not easy to write a radio hit--but it was almost heartbreaking to hear those bands practice through the walls while I was nursing my beer. That I-IV-V chord progression, the slightly nasal na-na-na-na singing, the bassplaying on the tonic of every chord, the precise drumming. I don't know if any of them will make it; maybe a few of them will. But the vast majority of the bands I heard practicing make music that becomes those promos that you can't sell because no one wants them. It's kind of sad, but true.
05.28.04 @ 02:35 AM EST [link]
I'm happy to report that Proven by Science has been tearing shit up recently. Don't miss out on Mark S' "Before and After Para-Science" series (esp. his story of writing for Frank Kogan's old zine Why Music Sucks while staying in a HAUNTED HOUSE!!)
05.27.04 @ 12:15 PM EST [link]
My cell phone died today, and I have to buy a new one tomorrow. If I ever had your phone number, or if we've ever talked on the phone at some point, please email your number to me! I lost all my contact information for pretty much everybody. My fault for never remembering to back things up.
05.27.04 @ 12:18 AM EST [link]
the first three, answered.
About ten different people have sent in questions so far, but I'm just gonna answer the first three for today. The rest are on the way. Keep sending 'em in!
I don't know how long you have usually owned an album before you have to review it, but do you feel comfortable reviewing work with a more or less first impression? Do you feel it's fair to the work, and that you get a meaningful opportunity to get to know the music before having to write?
If I'm reviewing an album, I'll listen to it constantly--I'll fall asleep to it, wake up to it, daydream to it, free-associate to it. I like what John Darnielle said in the Jukebox Jury I did with him last week--that things get more interesting when you add some time to them. I think my reviews would probably be a lot different if I had a few years to listen to the albums in question, but no one has that kind of time. Deadlines!
By the same token, it seems like you're constantly listening to new music; doesn't this ever feel forced? Many music critics seem to acquire a jadedness or numbness to the specialness of any given piece of music... What's your reaction to that?
Well, I'm pretty new to the whole game; I still go "ooh! promos!" when I open the mail, and I don't think I'm all that jaded. I've been living in New York for almost two years, which is not so long in the scheme of things. I don't know what you mean by "specialness." I do get overwhelmed sometimes listening to new music, and still listen to old records often--music that reminds me of certain memories and times in my life, mostly. There are certain records that act as a salve for my frayed nerves, and I don't think anyone else is any different. When I'm really sad I listen to swirly, sigh-heavy microhouse (haha micro-goth!), this totally awesome and trashy Mixmag comp from 2001, hi-NRG, dancehall, and Brian Eno's first four 'rock' records. And Wire's 'Pink Flag' because I always end up singing along, and '12XU' was the best antidepressant ever invented.
Q1: rank these places/activities/whatevers wherein people most commonly listen to music - while: 1) dancing 2) studying 3) washing dishes 4) driving/in transport (for those who spend more times in cabs/trains than mustangs/tbirds) 5) vacuuming 6) bathing, music coming from the other room 7) bathing, music coming from the same room 8) "in the act of physical love" 9) shopping for groceries 10) getting a haircut 11) playing a video game 12) laying out at the beach 13) laying out at the pool 14) right before the band goes on stage 15) right after the band leaves the stage 16) just sitting in front of your stereo, paying attention solely to the music maaan
Er...I don't think I follow the question. I am totally in favor of people dancing in any situation, so I'm going to rank that #1. then: 8, 12, 6, 7, 3, 9, 14, 15, 16, 13, 10, 2, 4, 5, 11. I'm surprised you didn't include "cooking." I love listening to music when I cook. Frequent readers might be surprised to learn that my most prized possession is not some dusty slab of vinyl, but a Kitchenaid mixer.
Q2: are you a good dancer or a bad dancer? don't lie. (followup/part of the same question: do you have any moves or do you just 'dance'/'flow'/'bob'?)
I'm not a good dancer or a bad dancer, I think; I'm not self-conscious about it and I get really energized by it. I love dancing to '90s ragga-jungle and sped-up-Chipmunk-vocals-hardcore. It's like an obstacle course; I get totally lost in all the peaks and valleys and rushes and whooshes and I love the breakdowns (which give you time to catch your breath). Like being trapped inside of Tron, in all its cartoonishness. I love dancing to schaffel, too, and the swoonier 4/4 stuff. And disco and punk-funk or whatever the hell they're calling it. In general I favor sweeter, warmer, funkier stuff (I know, I'm such a girl) over the clickier, drier, more bangin' stuff. Like Derrick May this weekend, for instance--there was a huge expanse of his set where it was so punishingly hard-as-nails and severe that it took a lot of effort to get into. As for moves, it's all kind of improvised. When I was a kid I took two years of Indian classical dancing lessons, which was very rigid, highly formalist. That kind of dancing had moves that required hours of doing squats and leg raises to accomplish.
Q3: What makes a man start fires?
A carbon source, plus a continuous source of oxygen, which will break down (if complete combustion) to CO2 + H2O.
What are the 3 best live shows you've seen over the past year?
Kompakt vs. Rephlex at Volume, Einsturzende Neubauten at Irving Plaza, Wolf Eyes at the No Fun Fest.
Which album would you want to write about for the 33 1/3 series?
Oooh. Most definitely something by Bowie. Lodger or Low, most likely.
Have you seen any decent music videos lately?
05.26.04 @ 01:28 AM EST [link]
In the new issue of the Wire with Fennesz on the cover, I reviewed the new Sonic Youth album and the "New Music, New York + 25" benefit concert. If you want to see how some Sonic Youth fans are already picking apart (and in some cases taking offense to) my review, take a look here!!
You know what this means: I have to start watching my back. No more going to Tonic without a bodyguard!
05.25.04 @ 05:30 PM EST [link]
Keep those questions coming! I'm gonna set the deadline for Wednesday, and I'll have all the answers up by Thursday.
05.24.04 @ 05:04 PM EST [link]
Is there any place more disorienting than Toys "R" Us? Went to the one in Union Square today to find something to give to my nephew at his Ninja Turtles birthday party tomorrow (he's turning 7). I got lost for at least an hour in Toys "R" Us' garish, overstimulating maze, and spent about ten minutes panicking about not being able to find the exit. I also kept gravitating toward stuff that I would have thought was cool when I was seven -- "Dr Van Helsing's Totally Gross Dissection Kit" [featuring a gooey plastic brain covered in this slimy substance!!], a badass microscope complete with petri dishes, Lego robots with 848 separate parts, stuff like that. . .
05.22.04 @ 08:49 PM EST [link]
in the sky there is a cloud containing the sea.
Had a series of progressively colorful, fevered dreams that culminated in me clutching my head and repeating the line "I can think of nowhere I would rather be/Reading morning papers, drinking morning tea" while spiraling back to consciousness. "Mother Whale Eyeless" by Brian Eno! Don't know why I was DREAMING about it, or why it was in my head. I mean I love that song, and I just saw Douglas' 801 project do a fine cover of it the other night, so maybe that's why. Then I dug through my stacks of dusty vinyl, found the song, and put it on, which effectively washed the dreams away like so much ocean water.
05.22.04 @ 12:19 PM EST [link]
And you know what's way more fun than the new Black Dice? This Japanese Karaoke Afterlife Experiment/Unicorn Hard-On/Knifestorm CD-R that I got in the mail. (thanks Ren!)
05.21.04 @ 05:22 PM EST [link]
Following in the footsteps of Douglas and Matos (I'm such a bandwagon-jumper), I too am initiating the "go ahead, ask me anything" challenge. You can ask me up to three questions--about whatever you want--and I promise to answer them all, to the best of my ability. (Send questions using the email link on the right.) Answers will either be provided here or via private e-mail. Please feel free to ask non-music questions!
05.20.04 @ 04:47 PM EST [link]
Good grief, the new Black Dice album Creature Comforts is the stoned-est thing I've ever heard them do. I mean I really like it, but some stretches of it really are only tolerable to the weed-inclined. It all reminds me of the talk surrounding a new exhibit called "Drunk vs. Stoned" currently running at some Chelsea gallery. In this piece (from Voice issue #0420 har har), art critic Jerry Saltz points out the obvious: "The stoned sensibility is easily fixated, fascinated, or surprised. Stoned meanders, fills in space with small or repeating marks and gestures, or gets super-focused. It loves spirals, circles, and patterns, bright colors and endlessly embellished areas. It's located more in the fingers than the arm; the eyes, not the gut. While it's physically tingly, it's also very out-of-body." Duuude! I challenge anyone to write a review of this album that doesn't include the word "burbling," because, well, this album burbles. A lot. It also has those kinda Geogaddi-esque moments where things go all nutty with the pitchshifter and you start to wonder if there's something wrong with the stereo. But where bands like Boards of Canada move songs forward in a somewhat linear fashion, Black Dice keeps circling around and around the same little swirls, coming back to micro-themes and touching them up endlessly with little dabs of color. I don't really know why I'm comparing the two bands because they have almost nothing in common, but they both do have that childlike wonder/paranoia thing going on. If you've ever hung out with someone who's completely baked, both the childlike thing and the paranoia thing make sense. A better point of comparison might be Animal Collective, or kindred spirits Boredoms (the EYE remix of Black Dice's 'Endless Happiness' really is the best thing ever) but I recall an interview in the Wire where Yoshimi claimed that none of the Boredoms did drugs. I can almost believe her, but Black Dice really does reek of fine, fine herb, so much so that you can almost smell its heady fragrance emanating from the CD. Listening to this record is like going on a walk with a little kid who wants to stop every two minutes. To some people this kind of constant oh-wow-ness can be fascinating, but I can see why others would find it utterly tiresome.
05.20.04 @ 02:49 PM EST [link]
The new Fabric mix by Akufen looks killer! (And note Akufen making a sneaky appearance in the mix as Horror Inc. I can never keep all the pseudonyms/nom de plumes straight)
01 Philippe Cam - LFO Drive - Traum
02 Matthew Dear - Dog Days [Pantytec Mix] - Spectral/Ghostly Int.
03 Cabanne - Karasmik - Katapult
04 Krikor - 1968 [Ark Mix] - Dialect
05 Pantytec - Alabaster - Perlon
06 Kalabrese - Set Me Free - Perlon
07 The Rip Off Artist - Little Tiny Eight Inch Jack - Vertical Form
08 Senor Coconut - Smoke On The Water - Multicolor
09 Dub.E. Us - Blood Red [Demarkus Lewis Lyin’ Beats Mix] - Fairpark
10 Wighnomy Brothers and Robag Wruhme - Bobb - Freude Am Tanzen
11 FYM & S/MAX - Red Fibreglass - 7th City
12 Ultrakurt - McGell - Telegraph
13 Herbert - Close To Me - K7
14 Freaks - Instrument [Soul Capsule On It Remix] - Music for Freaks
15 Crackhaus - Ample Slacks - Onitor
16 Mossa - Bucolik - Circus Company
17 Luciano et Serafin - Yaki Soba - Telegraph
18 Soul Center - Funky Sterling - Mute
19 Horror Inc. - Siamese Twins [Mike Shannon Mix] - Revolver
20 Jeff Milligan - In My Life - Background
21 Steve Beaupre - My Old Lady - Musique Risquee
05.20.04 @ 01:25 PM EST [link]
A few months ago, I spent an evening with one of my favorite people in the whole world, armed with a little boombox and a big pile of songs I wanted him to hear. The fruits of our conversation are in this week's Seattle Weekly:
Jukebox Jury with the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle
I'll post the unedited transcript soon, in case any mentalists out there want to read the entire 5000-word marathon version. I wish I had video footage; the dreamy, faraway look in John's eyes when I played him the Stockholm Monsters was priceless.
05.19.04 @ 04:07 AM EST [link]
Just received word that there will be a memorial service for Lizzy Mercier Descloux on Saturday from 6-9 pm here in NYC. Location: CB's Gallery (313 Bowery, right next to CBGB's.) All are welcome.
05.18.04 @ 06:29 PM EST [link]
Finally saw the music video for 'Musicology' and man, what a snoozer! 'Don't u miss the feeling/music gave ya/back in the day?' No Prince, I want the feeling that music gives me RIGHT NOW! Like the song, the video's totally clumpy and clunky and unsexy and old-school. I mean, Prince looks absolutely fantastic, but nothing else in the video does. The creeping feeling of the video's suckiness was heightened by the fact that immediately following it was Justin Timberlake--wall-to-wall passion in comparison to the Prince vid. (I like Justin, but he really needs to go out and buy some nice suits. Maybe Prince could take him shopping? Whatever, anything except that awful t-shirt-and-khakis thing.)
[And of course, speaking of Prince, you should check out this book and this piece.]
05.18.04 @ 02:02 AM EST [link]
This week is gonna be TREMENDOUS. ----->
05.16.04 @ 11:26 PM EST [link]
I see that the (lovely) Mark K-Punk disagrees with me with regards to da Mozzer. I've got no problems with Morrissey, really. But as a friend of mine noted, this flood of advance press has come far, far ahead of the album's official release. Seems editors all have their panties in a twist over "oh wow Moz is back!" without stepping back to think about the quality of the music itself. I got the new album the other day and good lord is it dire. Seriously, so painful that I had to turn it off halfway in. And this is coming from a total Smiths fan, and someone who collected (and really liked!) the Morrissey solo albums. And yes, I think Morrissey still commands a powerful aura, a one-of-a-kind charm and wit and charisma and personality. And yes he does look great these days, dapper even. But go and listen to that new album and tell me it's not one of the absolute worst things he's ever done. It's far, far worse than Maladjusted. On any level--arrangements, lyrics, production--there is no way that you can say that this is a great album, or even a good one. It's not even spectacularly awful; it's just dull. To borrow his own words, it's a "crashing bore."
05.16.04 @ 10:46 PM EST [link]
pain. fear. art.
An ad that's running in the Tube right now. The design is awesome:
05.16.04 @ 04:15 PM EST [link]
I review a book review (am I getting too meta?) for Proven by Science.
05.16.04 @ 12:16 AM EST [link]
Sometimes when I'm bored I read German websites. Check this one out: Studio 672 in Köln. Friday nights look especially swoony.
05.14.04 @ 03:39 AM EST [link]
71 degrees. The kind of New York night that made a trek from Houston to 70th feel like nothing at all. (Should've worn sneakers, though.)
[Also: Alex Ross has a blog!!]
And there are few things more terrifying than listening to the new DNA reissue and having an entire bookcase in your apartment collapse with a horrific crash. First thing I thought was "Wow, DNA really does complement the sound of hundreds of books falling!" before realizing what had happened. Typical.
05.13.04 @ 01:32 AM EST [link]
Animal Collective has music videos. The vid for "Who Could Win A Rabbit" is a little too ridiculously twee for me, but, y'know, that's the band for ya. Kind of does have a nice underlying sinister element to it though that reminds me of--what was that Aphex video with the giant teddy bears? "Donkey Rhubarb"? Anyway, Animal Collective music videos. Will they feature grown men dressed in bunny costumes riding bikes, you ask? Of course they will!
05.12.04 @ 02:33 PM EST [link]
Come check out This is Pop on Thursday at The New School. Rumor has it the illustrious list of speakers will include the mysterious force behind Blissblog!
05.11.04 @ 04:25 PM EST [link]
One line in The Roots' upcoming "virtual duet" with Sly and the Family Stone (Jesus wept!) that really rankled me: "Hip-hop ain't pop like Kylie Minogue." AGHTHTHPHHFTPHFPTH!
05.11.04 @ 12:33 AM EST [link]
the sound of slots.
Absolutely riveting ten-page-long piece by Gary Rivlin in the NY Times Magazine on the rise of slot machines. I never would have guessed that slots are a 30 billion dollar business annually (3 times that of the movie industry, in fact!) There are a lot of great parts to the story, but my favorites are (surprise surprise) the parts that reference music or brains (BRAINS!!):
The traditional pull-handle, if it exists at all, is nothing more than a vestigial limb; most players now press a button to start the reels, often virtual, spinning. Many slot machines don't even pay out coins but issue ''credits'' on a paper receipt to be redeemed at the cashier's cage. Slot makers have found that their customers don't miss handling money -- coins are heavy and dirty, after all -- and stereo speakers can project the simulated yet satisfying ping and clink of cascading cash. ''We basically mixed several recordings of quarters falling on a metal tray and then fattened up the sound with the sound of falling dollars,'' says Bill Hecht, I.G.T.'s top audio engineer, when describing one of the audio files he programs into a machine.
The genius of that last quote aside, I never would've thought that a team of audio engineers was behind those things. I guess it makes sense. Also how crazily meta the whole thing has become: the new slot machines are designed to simulate old-time slot machines which aimed to, in some way, simulate the high-rolling casino experience. Never been to Vegas, but I have seen Reno in all its seedy, faded glory while on a madcap cross-country adventure once. Reno's where lead American slots producer I.G.T. is based. Another interesting bit about sound design:
Before [head I.G.T. designer] Kaminkow's arrival, I.G.T.'s games weren't quiet -- hardly -- but they didn't take full advantage of the power of special effects like ''smart sounds'' -- bright bursts of music. So Kaminkow decreed that every action, every spin of the wheel, every outcome, would have its own unique sound. The typical slot machine featured maybe 15 ''sound events'' when Kaminkow first arrived at I.G.T.; now that average is closer to 400. And the deeper a player gets into a game, the quicker and usually louder the music.
This relates to the later idea of "rolling sounds":
The machine constantly emitted noises: clapping sounds, little bright chimes, the occasional yodel. The show's theme song never stopped, driving me batty, until finally I hit a bonus -- suddenly that theme song turned sweet. Slot designers call it a ''rolling sound'': the more credits you win, the longer the song plays.
The design is also really fascinating from a psychological perspective. Here we have what is basically the ultimate stimulus-response system; it's the best Skinner box possible. Everything on the machine's been designed just so, so you'll be drawn to it--the flashing lights, bright colors, bits of music -- in pretty much the same way a toddler is enraptured by a cool toy. What makes it the ultimate stimulus-response system, as Rivlin notes, is that it functions on intermittent reward--smaller payouts on a scattered basis. Of all the forms of reward, it's the most seductive.
Rivlin goes into excruciating detail of how old sitcoms like 'I Dream of Jeannie' are typically chosen to theme the machines; the images and sounds trigger specific memories in the target demographic (senior citizens and middle-aged housewives, mostly). It has the dual effect of spicing up the mundane slots experience while also keeping it comforting and familiar. So comforting and familiar that you'd want to sit there, staring at the same machine, for hours at a time. In effect, each machine becomes its own little slice of. . . home. [insert creepy horror music here]
05.09.04 @ 08:05 PM EST [link]
"And so time continues its course, renewed every time." --Luc Ferrari, explaining his music
05.08.04 @ 01:27 AM EST [link]
So how about that new "Grime" comp on Rephlex? Just got it the other day and the cover is a bleak steel-grey with bare, angular black text. Similarly stark, desolate track titles like "Industrial Graft" and "Black Hole". I really like it--listening to all this stuff stacked end-to-end is really bracing, like a chilly blast of winter air--but c'mon dudes! At the risk of sounding like a candy-necklaced PLUR hippie, look outside! It's almost summer now; the grass is green! Sun's shining! It's okay to smile!
In the Rephlex room during Kompakt vs. Rephlex night at Volume, I actually saw (sobriety was a bit erm...not in functioning order that night) ICICLES hanging from the ceiling of the Rephlex room during MarkOne and Plasticman. Not the cute little icicles you see on your window during a little flurry or something, but like, whole galaxies of sharp-edged stalactites. Then I gravitated towards the Kompakt room cuz it had rainbows!
05.07.04 @ 01:05 AM EST [link]
and if you have five seconds to spare...
Can I also just say that the renewed and rejuvenated cult of Morrissey utterly befuddles me? Have people so quickly forgotten what a travesty his last album Maladjusted was? I mean, please, does anyone remember "Satan Rejected My Soul"?! No? There's a reason for that, you know! For Irish Blood, English Heart, which no one in his/her right mind should care much about (have you heard the lead single? It's boring!) I see a press frenzy that most rock stars would envy. A nattily-dressed Morrissey on the cover of GQ! Morrissey interviewed by it-boys the DFA for the cover of edgy style mag Index! Morrissey gracing the cover of the German edition of Rolling Stone. Interviews in Spin, NME, The Guardian, etc etc. A sold-out five-day run at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem this week with tix for each night going for $75! And I know people who are going to all five shows! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! The best explanation I can come up with is that he still symbolizes a sort of old-skool metrosexual suaveness that few in music today can match. The last time I saw the ol' Mozzer solo was seven years ago. He pranced off stage in a huff about thirty minutes in, when impassioned fans were a bit too eager to embrace the dude as he sang 'Shoplifters of the World Unite' in a totally pinched, petulant tone. Just give it up already, Morrissey! You've inflicted yourself on us for far too long! Far. . . too. . . long. . .
05.06.04 @ 02:21 PM EST [link]
I only get to see music videos--or TV, for that matter--when I'm at the local gym lifting weights. (Not the big scary dude-weights, but the less threatening girlie ones, in case you were wondering.) Usually the videos they show are sort of old, but it's not like I'd know. (I just saw the video for "Hey Ya!" a few weeks ago.) Today I finally saw a Jessica Simpson music video and marveled at her inexplicable ascent to stardom (still have never seen 'Newlyweds'). She's not even that pretty, is she? I mean, she's rail-thin, so maybe that's part of the draw. But she looks and sounds so. . . ordinary, which I guess is part of the sorority-girl-next-door charm, because it's certainly not her singing. Then there was some weird Beyonce video that I forget the name of, but she had this sort of blue cast on her and was slithering around in the sand or something. Beyonce's cute but there's something really weird about how they style videos these days, with the glow-levels so amped up that the singers are practically effulgent. Pick up any womens' magazine at the grocery store and now that summer's approaching they're all obsessed with how to "get that healthy, natural glow", which as far as I can understand it involves a lot of strategically-applied makeup, lip gloss, and that spray-on fake tanning stuff. Now I'm not alleging that Beyonce uses fake tanning stuff, but she literally looked shiny, like she was slathered in a two-inch-thick layer of Vaseline before the shoot. Then there's this way that they airbrush photos where everything looks almost reflective, it's so glowing. There's only so much you can glow before you become dangerously unstable and start emitting neutrons, you know!
05.06.04 @ 02:00 AM EST [link]
Seeing Theo Parrish spin last week and then Erlend Řye last night made for a real study in contrasts. The first is a cool professional with an idiosyncratic but unbelievably intuitive knowledge of how to build a vibe. You can't necessarily dance to everything Parrish plays, but you will be psyched for it. I wasn't feeling so hot when I saw Parrish, but I couldn't help but get really, really into it. His set was all over the place genre- and tempo- and rhythm-wise, but it also felt remarkably tight and cohesive. Everything made instant 'oh wow that's perfect!' sense in a way that few sets that are that eclectic do.
Wasn't really planning on seeing Erlend Řye spin last night, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house, especially when your cranky downstairs neighbor is breathing down your neck for playing Speicher tracks really loud at night. Strangely nothing seems to irk said neighbor--hip-hop, rock, jazz, Superpitcher's new one, that new Grime comp on Rephlex, etc have all been played at top volume in this household with no complaints. What causes problems, it seems, are things with a really hard, insistent 4/4 thump, like Chicago house or, as I found out recently, Speicher tracks. But there's no good way to listen to hard, bangin Speicher stuff except really loud. Naturally our interaction turns into a passive-aggressive ratcheting-upwards kind of game, culminating in me playing Reinhard Voigt's 'How We Rock' five times and then claiming it was the washing machine. It does kind of sound like a washing machine doesn't it! The best washing machine in the world! So anyway, I decided to go to APT where I could hear people play stuff loud at 3 am without cranky neighbors.
So let's go back to that study in contrasts. I was trying to figure out the best way to explain the difference between Parrish and Řye DJ-wise, and I came up with this analogy. Imagine the electromagnetic spectrum except for DJs. Somewhere all the way on the gamma-radiation end of the spectrum is Theo Parrish. Short wavelength, high frequency, high energy, radioactive, glowing. All the way on the other end of the spectrum is "amateur but lovable" Erlend Řye--long wavelength, low frequency, low energy. Think AM radio waves and stuff like that, stuff that's easy to sense and measure using ordinary methods. Not much magic there. The dude's a bespectacled white-as-a-sheet Norwegian best known for being in an indie band known as the Kings of Convenience, but who recently came out with a DJ Kicks mix.
Erlend loves to dance, and was dancing all around the DJ booth while spinning. He's really into very poptastic dance music, which is cool--aren't we all?--but it seems hard for him to transfer his obvious enthusiasm into a set that's more than the sum of its parts. Some people get really caught up in the technical aspects of DJing--beatmatching, mixing, etc--to the point where it gets annoyingly danceist. Almost prog-rock in its emphasis on chops and technical wizardry. But mixing's more something you notice when it isn't there. Which brings us back to young Erlend. He was charming as can be, smiling and trying to get people into it ("You're gonna love this one! Just wait, the track gets better soon!"), but his grip on the decks was about as firm as tofu. Not that it really mattered, with this adoring crowd--strangely, many more people turned up to see him than to see Theo Parrish last week--but he could have really used some help at some points in the evening. Some parts of his set were absolutely great--fun, bouncy French house tracks ("I was just in Paris three days ago," he told us)--but there were parts of the night where it seemed more like the kind of stuff you'd hear on the CD player at someone's house. One particularly cringeworthy segment was when he played Jaxx 'Just 1 kiss' followed by Daft Punk's 'One More Time.' Now I love those songs and always will, but really, in a DJ set in 2004? Oh yeah, then he sang along off-key to 'One More Time' in a way that only someone who is really drunk on free-drink-ticket vodka can do. Yeah, I forgot to mention that he sings. Most of the time it's kind of nice and soft and almost imperceptible. Ladies love Řye--he pushes all the right I-am-a-tortured-indie-rocker buttons, I think. There was a cluster of girls around the DJ booth, all trying to catch his eye (which was masked in giant coke-bottle-thick plastic-framed nerd glasses, of course.) He was more than happy to oblige them, and decided he was too tired to DJ anymore, instead putting on a Prince mix and joining the crowd. At which point I decided I was too tired for Erlend. Not a bad night for five bucks, but not a particularly good one either.
05.05.04 @ 04:48 PM EST [link]
My sub-zero email has been funky lately--please resend any recent correspondence to: geeta (at) theoriginalsoundtrack (dot) com.
05.03.04 @ 07:13 PM EST [link]
Reading--and writing--critiques of 'experimental music' always gets me thinking about the word 'experimental', and how that word gets bandied about so much that it's hard to discern what it's supposed to even mean. I see it used all the time, usually to come up with a pat description for something that just sounds kind of weird. For something that doesn't snap immediately into a conventional song structure. I really kind of despise the word; I use it but curse myself every time I do, because all music is an experiment of some form. 'Experimental' is a word that, strangely enough, stops you from thinking instead of making you think. It's a stand-in word, a cheap signifier to cover up what we don't understand or want to explain. I'd like to see more people get underneath the skin of what, exactly, the experiment is instead of giving me some hogwash about how it "pushes the boundaries of the genre."
In science, almost all experiments fail. That's just the way things go. Construct a hypothesis, follow that scientific method to a T, graph those suckers expertly and still get error bars so big your data's meaningless. Sometimes I think there should be science critics who hang out at labs and watch people do experiments, and critique them the way that music critics go to shows and critique music. "Labcoat #1 then performed an extraction with three separatory funnels. The solvent bubbled furiously..." There are as many ideas in failed science experiments as the successful ones, and sometimes the failed ones are more fun to watch. I'd like to see people fail more often in their 'experimental music' performances, completely and utterly. Not just a gentle buzzing laptop failure but a magnificent smoldering-pile-of-wreckage failure. I want to see thought processes at work, see people freak out. I'd like to see more improvised performances where I can actually sense the performers struggling to find somewhere they've never been, rather than somewhere they know they can go. And I think that musicians and scientists ('experimental' by definition) have more in common than they'd care to admit, regardless of how self-conscious they are about their methods.
05.03.04 @ 04:14 AM EST [link]
I'm heading back home to New York right now, but I just wanted to say thanks to all the bands who played this weekend at Roast in Cambridge, Mass., particularly Night Rally and Sightings, who were both incredible. Go check them out.
05.02.04 @ 03:00 PM EST [link]