Sunday, June 01, 2008

Seven Songs

Ah, another pleasant distraction in the form of a meme (read 'audio virus') spread to me from Kid Shirt:

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

Well, here goes.

1. Talk Talk - 'The Rainbow'

Spirit Of Eden, the other great album of 1988 (Daydream Nation having assumed Canonical Status now, courtesy of the shits at Pitchfork and Dadrock Monthly), was the last CD I actually bought from a record store, and it's the one I've been playing most. This sweet, subtle opening cut, which drifts in on lonely trumpet and keyboard drones like aeolian harps, somewhere between Morton Feldman and Max Eastley's quietest moments, sparks, at 3 minutes in, into the world's most melancholic and least scrutable elegy. It would take more effort than it's worth to describe what happens, and such efforts couldn't possibly convey its sheer trembling grace; Mark Hollis' fragile tenor, Tim Friese-Greene's harmonium, piano, guitar and organ, and Nigel Kennedy's (!) violin draw, together, a portrait of a new English pastoral that has nothing to do with nationalist sentimental ruralism, drawing lines between Richard Thompson's Henry The Human Fly, Miles Davis' electric period and Bark Psychosis' Hex.

2. Modest Mouse - 'Dashboard'

'From the Number One album...' is a phrase which, on its own, is generally enough to turn my stomach. Not that I can be fucked to buy We Were Dead...; 'Dashboard', which I've been known to listen to at least once or twice a day, is enough. A rhythm so propulsive it could launch jets, complete with near-funk horns (take that, whitey!), topped by Isaac Brock's manic bark, grappling pithily with the death-wish ("Well you told me 'bout nowhere, it sounds like some place I'd like to go-oh-oh-oh-oh"). But what I really love is the section just before the end where it subsides, Brock seemingly dropping into a talking blues style, muttering regret about his tendency to obstinate, uh, regret ("I was patiently erasing and recording the wrong episodes/After you had proved my point wrong"), before the song shoots up again, the stoic affirmation running through its verses ("We've yet to crash but we might as well enjoy it") running forward in one last communal singalong. Lovely.

3. Miles Davis - 'Spanish Key'

I got The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions for Christmas, and started listening to them again after reading this recent Blissblog post - the extra material, whilst nice, isn't essential; the six tracks of the original album could take a lifetime to explore. While the combined 47 minutes of the first two tracks, 'Pharoah's Dance' and the title song, could discourage listeners from going any further - I usually need a lie down after listening to either of them - they'll lose the chance to hear 'Spanish Key', where Miles directs an expedition to the outer edges of funk. The rhythmic elements, while providing a relentless, ass-shaking momentum, add to the texture; the 'melodic' elements - Miles moaning the main theme through an echoplex of cosmic doom, Wayne Shorter's lithe, snaking soprano and the bubbling electric pianos - give constant rhythmic jolts. Everything, in effect, is reduced to piggishly rich timbre and constant, unstoppable movement. And even this was only a prelude to the volcanic, avant-garde convulsions of Agharta, Pangaea and Dark Magus. It is, of course, also the missing link - if you'll pardon the Paul Morley theft - between James Brown and Shy FX.

4. Robert Wyatt - 'Just As You Are'

I only started listening to this last week because I'd been speculating on what I would put as the best albums of this year, come the end, and it occurred to me I'd never listened to what The Wire had deemed as last year's best album. 'A mixed bag' would be the best description, and whilst the hair-raising threnody of 'Out Of The Blue' is probably my favourite track off Comicopera, this lilting jazz duet between Wyatt and Monica Vasconcelos is oddly comforting in its beauty, in spite of the content: co-written by Wyatt and his wife Alfreda Benge, about his drink problem and occasional insufferability, its an oddly moving testament to co-dependence - something I myself can barely imagine - its necessity and impossibility. Wyatt has testified in interviews, and in songs since Rock Bottom, to how Alfie has basically been the only thing between himself and death all these years, and domestic reality, here, doubles as a resignation to the business of living: "I'm never ever going to change a thing/I'll try to love you, just as you are". When Wyatt, after the guitar-spangled bridge, comes in - "I know you despise me, for not being stronger/What can I do?" - with that mutter marked with age, my heart rises to my throat (again.) Ah, fuck. Hope is the hardest of burdens, but there's no choice, not until the song ends.

5. Alastair Galbraith - 'Ember'

I've only just gotten into Alastair Galbraith's work, through the proselytising of Jon Dale and The Broken Face's Mats Gustaffson - 'Ember' is one of the largest fragments on Mirrorwork, and I could have named half a dozen others I've loved recently. The mystery and beauty of Galbraith's work is, despite his position as an "artisan songwriter", implicitly Modernist, and just as archaic as they were: Pound and Eliot's invocations of Dante, Virgil and the Bible are echoed in Galbraith's imagery, Eliot's "son of man" stood on the seashore, in communion with a nature dumb and beautiful in its abstraction. On 'Flickering Birds', he ends on the lilting refrain "The sea was drumming me on" as his guitar quietly rolls in waves; on 'Ember' he sees "The fire the day went out", his violin moaning a quiet elegy. The mere, and ultimate fact of extinction seems, when you're listening to it, never to have been put so beautifully.

6. Nadja - 'Bliss Torn From Emptiness'

I don't really feel I should, or can, pick out a song by this band, so this is going to have to stand in for their entire catalogue, which I've been immersed in the last couple of days. And 'immersed' is the right word: their music is vast, swelling, blackly aqueous. This track is also the entirety of the Bliss Torn From Emptiness album, 48 minutes of washing tides of feedback, peppered with machinic cymbal cracks like the bobbing of buoys. If I were to ask you to imagine Sunn O)))'s 'Bathory Erszebet' from Black One being stretched on the rack by La Monte Young, that might give you a good idea: the crushing, distortion-coated blows of doom metal smeared into huge clouds of drone that billow like solar flares, coming closer to the decaying textures of isolationism. It's only after 5 minutes that it settles down into something relatively normal, a big, cyclical fuzz riff and four-square percussion marking out the territory, then being, very, very, very slowly swallowed by the overdriven mess of overtones that gradually takes (non-)shape. Heard through headphones, it feels both intimidatingly vast and curiously intimate; even, when bassist Leah Buckareff mutters the refrain "God" over a glacial bed of drone, erotic. 'Bliss' is about right.

7. Xiu Xiu - 'Under Pressure' (feat. Michael Gira)

I mentioned hope, but I forgot, almost, about the new Xiu Xiu record, which I've been meaning to post about since I got it in April; but that would mean a) writing about the whole Xiu Xiu catalogue, and b) writing about some stuff that I really don't feel I can put down on paper. It's difficult enough doing it indirectly, through fiction, without bringing into the unremitting glare of ostensible 'non-fiction'. So, for now, I'll just write about Women As Lovers in isolation: 'Under Pressure' isn't actually my favourite song from the album - the recipient of that dubious honour changes from day to day - but the one that caught my ear immediately when I first heard it on their MySpace. Jamie Stewart has said that they - and I say 'they' because too many fuckwits see Xiu Xiu as simply "Jamie's project", a simple record of private pain, an angle that ignores Caralee McElroy's invaluable contributions (and notice it's the 'girl' who gets ignored in such narratives) - recorded this cover for its "relentless positivity". My mum's copy of Queen's Platinum Collection was the most shameless part of the soundtrack to my adolescence, and the melody of 'Under Pressure', rising and pumping to a peak of unbearable tension, is something inextricably trapped in my memory. Beginning from slow, tentative rim-shots, out from the dying air-raid at the end of 'Guantanamo Canto', the unmistakable notes ring out from John Dietrich's guitar, a chorus of sizzling saxophones pave the way for Stewart and Michael Gira to sing out lyrics that took utter despair to the top of the charts: "It's the terror of knowing what this world is about/Watching some good friend screaming 'Let me out!'" Caralee takes up Bowie's little aside - "Chipping around, kick my brains round the floor/These are the days it never rains but it pours" - before the sax scribbles out Freddie Mercury's glossolalia. After the characteristic dip, Gira comes back with the first line of the next verse, an explosion of free drums and sax behind him: "Insanity laughs, under pressure we're cracking". Jamie Stewart gives the screaming performance of his life, demanding another second here on earth: "Can't we give ourselves one more chance?/Why can't we give love one more chance?" Gira, Stewart and Caralee's voices dance into the tumultuous final verse, a chain of explosions exhorting the will to life in their own desperation to communicate: "Love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night/And love dares you, to change our way of caring about ourselves/This is our last dance/This is ourselves." The pain at the heart of this song is at the bottom of every meaningful plan for utopia: a place where, perhaps, where a love could actually exist that doesn't exterminate its holder(s) in the process. A myth, I know. But what the hell else do we have, now?

I don't seriously expect a response, but, just to see what might happen, I'll tag:

Emmy Hennings
Owen Hatherley
Simon Reynolds
Mark K-Punk
Infinite Thought
Neil at Feast Of Palmer
And - unlikeliest of the unlikelies - Jessica Hopper.


Blogger kek-w said...

Nice one , Dan!

June 1, 2008 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Ta, I'll have a go, give me a day or two...

June 1, 2008 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Ha! Right. Oh dear. Soon.

June 3, 2008 at 3:43 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

This could turn out some interesting results... *strokes chin*

June 3, 2008 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger sexy said...

麻將,台灣彩卷,六合彩開獎號碼,運動彩卷,六合彩,線上遊戲,矽谷麻將,明星3缺一,橘子町,麻將大悶鍋,台客麻將,公博,game,,中華職棒,麗的線上小遊戲,國士無雙麻將,麻將館,賭博遊戲,威力彩,威力彩開獎號碼,龍龍運動網,史萊姆,史萊姆好玩遊戲,史萊姆第一個家,史萊姆好玩遊戲區,樂透彩開獎號碼,遊戲天堂,好玩遊戲,遊戲基地,無料遊戲王,好玩遊戲區,麻將遊戲,好玩遊戲區,小遊戲,遊戲區,電玩快打,cs online





April 3, 2009 at 4:32 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home