Warren Ellis (author of Transmetropolitan and Freakangels amongst other great and freaky shit,) has a podcast of mostly ambient stuff called The 4am. He included “ennui” (aka “that i would find you” aka “sinister chemical wisdom”) in the latest podcast.
So last night I hit Grand Central in downtown Miami w/ Cira, met Bunny and Eden for ODDSAC, the Animal Collective/Danny Perez visual album. Ran into Prem and Yasmin on the way in, but they didn’t get in until later. Bunny and Ed introduced us to Emily (not Public Emily #1, Bunny’s Mrs., but another one; electronic musician. Seemed nice, but quiet and disappeared when we got inside.) The merch table had shirts and a poster (that Deakin apologetically said was for display purposes only, as they’d run out.) Producer comes on, says welcome, here’s Danny the director, he says how much he digs MIA and he’s got fam from here and it’s a weird place and here’s a movie to take you to another weird place. (I am paraphrasing.)
It’s probably slightly impossible to classify the damn thing. It’s not a video set to AC music, and it’s not a movie w/ an AC soundtrack. The music’s really bass-heavy in parts, heavy atmospheric and trance bits, acoustic guitar and sudden dynamic shifts, vocals etc. So great. The visuals are chaotic and have a vague series of “stories” or “sections” — they’re more like video vignettes to accompany these soundscapes. The addition of the visuals makes the music less vague and more defined “dark”, imo. A lot of AC’s latter stuff has dark overtones but this makes it more explicit. There were a few things I could have done without — the “water static” scene about 10 minutes in went on too long, I found it kind of grating and boring, but that’s probably my only real complaint. The opening piece, bass-heavy and vocal, sort of like a trance-y meditation
During the Q&A period afterwards someone asks the question I am wanting to ask: “What does ODDSAC mean?” and Danny says “you’ll find out in the morning when the subliminal effects have had time to sink in”, everyone laughs and someone else asks about the equipment (DVX100, final cut pro, after effects,) and someone asks the most insipid question: “how much fun was this to make?” (which is maybe another way to say “I have nothing to ask but would like you to acknowledge that I spoke to you”) — unsurprisingly, it was apparently a lot of fun to make. I’m going to posit that the title is way to conflate the ideas of a jumble of oddness and a sort of nascent strange egg (cf Coil’s “Strange Birds” — “One day your eggs are going to hatch and some very strange birds are going to emerge”, although I don’t think that’s what they were referring or alluding to, I mean that it’s in the similar idea.) Other bits: the Guggenheim installation was apparently much, much harder to do than this (Danny Perez also did that w/ AC), although the dude asking also wanted to know if they had plans to do more work like this (or the Guggenheim thing) in the future, that was left sort of open — Deakin said that Guggenheim thing was a sudden thing they didn’t know about until it was possible; no word on whether they’d do another visual album like this.
At any rate, Danny’s joke aside, I did have a horrible nightmare this morning. Personally very frightening and woke heart pounding and angry and confused, woozy and headache.
Here’s the trailer, doesn’t do it any justice:
If you get a chance, go, it’s fucking brilliant. It’ll be on DVD in June, no non-DVD CD release.
Ennui by yukbon
I made this using a mixer i got for 50$ via craigslist, my tele, audacity and the onboard mic on my netbook (couldn’t get my mic/cable back from eden in time) last week. Reading Xibie’s words put me in a Jesu mood, but the music that came out was very much not that. But I like it, so there you have it. The Good Witch said it reminded her of Aphex, and both she and Kat thought that the laughing was my voice (it’s a sample), Eden said it reminded him of GYBE! if they were a 1-man-band consisting of the guitarist who didn’t get into the band (uh…thanks ed?).
I used to be strictly a metalhead. All about pounding drums and searing guitars. I remember when Saladbar in 10th grade gushed about the cure and I mocked her for it (admittedly we’d disliked each other since, uh, 6th grade or so). Or when Eden first played Kraftwerk for me and I was practically physically ill and demanded he remove that sound from the fucking air. I think I did the same thing with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, although we were on our way to the Kitchen Club (back in Teh Day) with Nelly and this was during my deepest darkest depression and anxiety attacks, when I’d quit smoking and my friendship with ‘mo ended. I’d quit smoking a while by then, but was still getting horrible anxiety attacks and acid reflux. This was when prilosec was still prescription before they made a low-dose OTC and I was taking that and it was just Not Helping Very Much. Anyway, my point is, MLWTKK came on the radio (how I’ll never fucking know, a pirate station, I imagine, cos who the fuck would play that on broadcast radio is beyond me. Kudos if it was, their shit must fucking spark together when they walk down the street.) and it was just grating, annoying nonsense. I couldn’t even recognize it as music. I don’t know if that makes any sense. It’s like when you’re looking at a picture or something and you can’t see what it is of, but you can see that it has a shape, it’s just…you can’t make the connection. It took Bert and Lis playing Orbital’s “The Box” for me in the car, smoked up and on the way to Subrageous or Taco Bell or something. God, has it really been 10 years? The creaking door sound when it turns dark ambient is still fucking awesome.
So here’s to music I’ve hated but now insist that is fucking JAWSOME
The role of the bass varies on the music, of course. New Order made the bass a melodic, lead instrument and the drum machine and synths the ‘new’ bass instrument; a lot of the Beatles’ stuff with those slinky Paul basslines he’s known for also works as kind of a lead guitar. A lot of funk or fusion stuff mutates the bass into something else like a drum (e.g. Primus) or a staccatto guitar (Victor Wooten with Bela Fleck, for ex). But for the most part, the bass functions as the center of a piece, tonally and emotionally. It becomes the simplest abstraction to a piece, implying chords and melody (when not explicitly stating both — Jaco was good at that, but his jazz sensibility meant that the songs weren’t ‘pop’, I think this is the crucial je ne sais quois that McCartney’s basslines really brought to the Beatles’ songs — his basslines were melody, they had a pop sensibility and they still kept the crux of the song intact. Bach’s counterpoint stuff does that too. A lot of it is simply that a low tone has a lot of room to play in and will resonate longer. Once you get the air moving, it wants to keep moving, and low tones go through just about anything (and really high tones — this is why marching bands will have a single flute or piccolo player, often, they cut right through all the mids).
I don’t know why I’m even thinking of all this stuff. Olive Oyl and her Tattoo’d Man broke up and I picked up his old bass at their we’re-breaking-up-and-getting-different-places-so-buy-our-old-shit garage sale for 20$, maybe that’s it.
Here’s the band that John Peel called ”always the same, always different”
The 33 1/3 series can be hit or miss; the hits tend to be along the lines of minor editorializing and a lot of history and details with interviews. The books that are good are really good and worth checking out if you like the artist or album on offer.
The misses are dramatic in their misses:
Magnetic Fields’ “69 Love Songs” is a dictionary of all the words used in the lyrics of the album. Seriously.
The Smiths’ “Meat is Murder” is a novella about suicide and how much it sucked being an emo kid in the midwest in the 80s. It’s not bad, but it isn’t about the album.
Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality” is another novella (by Josh Darnelle of The Mountain Goats) about misunderstood teens.
Radiohead’s “OK Computer” is a bone-dry analysis of the album that discusses none of the music and reads like a treatise on the history of boredom.
Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation” is small doses of interestingness between pages of fawning and not-very-well-thought-out prose. I hated this book so much that I registered on Amazon in order to give it a bad review.1
PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me”, another novella.
The Band’s “Music from Big Pink”, a novella about a fictionalized ‘friend of The Band’ who is Zelig and Forrest Gump in his ability to be around at crucial moments in the making of the album. Then there’s the bits where the story centers around him and there’s nothing about the album. Yeah.
Throbbing Gristle’s “20 Jazz Funk Greats” by Drew Daniels (of Matmos). An excellent read consisting mostly of a description of the track/album followed by commentary on it by both Daniels and the band members, from snippets of interviews Daniels conducted with each, separately. There’s a lot of good insight on the tracks and themes behind the music and no overlap with the other books about TG (“Wreckers of Civilisation” or RE/search stuff etc). Daniels’ back-of-the-book blurb says his day job is as a professor and the writing shows it, but thankfully he’s also a fan of the band, it’s music and specifically this album. It really feels like he wrote the book he would have wanted to read, as a fan.
The Minutemen’s “Double Nickels on the Dime” by Michael T. Fournier. There’s bits of fanboy on this, but the enthusiasm gets funneled into good writing and interesting insights, with appropriate interviews. I learned that my CD copy has tracks missing from the original double album. I wonder when SST will get off it’s ass and put out a deluxe version of it.
My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” by Mike McGonigal. Extensive info on and from everyone (except Colm), a great read especially if you don’t want to read the book about Rough Trade just for the MBV bits.
R.E.M.’s “Murmur” by J. Niimi is hands-down the best book in the series. Organized and well-written, broken into distinct sections that have a logical flow, even if you don’t like the band, this is a worthwhile read. The content about the artwork and lyric content is particularly great.
David Bowie’s “Low” by Hugo Wilcken. Good but focused pretty strictly on Low (although it does touch slightly on “Station To Station”), with very few mentions of thematic ties to the Berlin trilogy. The quotes from Eno and engineers on the album are quite interesting although it does show Bowie at his most paranoid assholish worst (e.g. denying Visconti producer credit on a whim, etc.)
The Beatles’ “Let It Be” by Steve Matteo. Covering the Let It Be and Abbey Road periods (Abbey Road was released first, but recorded after Let It Be — there’s material from each recording session on the albums), with a lot of background on the dissolution of the band and it’s effect on the bandmembers. Not a great deal of demonizing of Yoko beyond fact-stating (“yoko was at this session, beatleX was annoyed at her” etc).
The Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main St.” by Bill Janovitz. A song-by-song breakdown of the Stones’ Americana-influenced album.
The Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” by Dan Leroy, the addition of the info on the singles and B-sides is really great.
Belle and Sebastian’s “If You’re Feeling Sinister” by Scott Plagenhoef, short and sweet, although if you’ve read anything about the band or this album in another book, it’s unlikely that you’ll find something amazingly new or brilliant.
Nirvana’s “In Utero” by Gillian G. Gaar. Quotes from Albini and info on the videos from this album make this a nice little read.
Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” by Amanda Petrusich, good but suffers from that there is so little known about Drake, there’s quote from musicians on how the album affected them spread out through the book and they wind up feeling like padding.
Velvet Underground’s “The Velvet Underground and Nico” by Joe Harvard, a lot of quotes from other musicians but this doesn’t feel like padding, mostly. Excellent info and history on early days of the band and it’s Warhol period.
Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Kim Cooper, a close contender with the ‘Murmur’ book for best-in-series; a lot of info about a group and album that not much is known about. Everyone interviewed and lots of info about the songs and the band proper.
Pixies’ “Doolittle”: aside from no Kim Deal involvement, everything you could ask for in a book that focuses on just this one Pixies album. Covers the reunion, extensive Frank Black interviews.
1 Special moment of hate: the author writes the lyric to a song and postulates that it’s about a religious thing; something about Satan or fear of Satan, tied to lust or sexuality. He then mentions that he brought this up to Kim Gordon who told him, “no, that’s not what it’s about. that’s totally wrong.” But he decided to leave it in the book anyway. Or analyzing a vocal aside “kick it!” as being about heroin, a few pages away talking about how Sonic Youth and Public Enemy shared a recording studio and how SY were influenced by PE, as if the “kick it!” had no ties to hip-hop.
Let me ‘splain. No, takes too long, let me sum up:
creating is fun. you make a new thing and ideally in the process you learn something about yourself even if it’s something trivial like “i was able to finish this stupid tiny goal”.Â Not every song has to be some Leonard Cohen self-torture brutally honest thing about how Janis Joplin blew you in a hotel room (no, really). Sometimes it has to be. Sometimes you gotta blow off steam about whatever — war or how you can’t stand your fucking job or how that evil bitch broke your heart or whatever. I’ve found that to do that type of stuff justice I have to focus, I can really only get to the austereness, the economy of language that says it exactly right, if I grind against the thing, let it fester like a thorn in my side and then I can think about it dispassionately, clinically. But for making the thing for the sake of making the thing, I find that I need to collaborate, even if it’s improvisationally, with someone else. Something to bounce off of, a spark that makes you go “I had never thought about it quite like that”. There’s a Tom Waits interview where he goes on and on about his wife and he describes how sometimes she’ll help him write a song by suggesting that he write as if they were, for example, travelling in China with a banjo. I don’t know where the hell I’m going with this. Maybe I should collab more. Today’s jam at Eden’s place was short because we ran out of cabling and couldn’t record and I wound up having to go play taxi driver again. C’est la vie.
what do you want misbegotten whore your every word like something fetid another abortion scraped from the drooling maw of your cunt-mouth you never tire of hurting the ones around you you set the hooks deep, god knows god knows you played the victim so often you forgot it was a part the world doesn’t owe you, god knows.
I really must talk to Aik about getting him to drum, if only for just this song.