Tag Archives: Artistry

Hopes and Schemes – The Promise of Fiction

So, I have this problem.

I love reading, I really love reading. I’ve got huge stacks of books left to read and I’ve read huge stacks of book. The one problem is that bigger than either of these stack, is the stacks of books I’ve started but not finished.

I’m terrible at it.

I’ve started two books in the last week. One of them I only got two pages in before deciding I wanted to read something else first. (It’s the second in a series, I decided I wanted a break before continuing).

So instead I read something else. A book I bought on a whim last year because I thought the central idea sounded amazing.

Now here’s the problem.

I am enjoying this book thoroughly. But I’m pretty sure it’s not turning out to be the book I originally intended on reading.

It couldn’t be…that book doesn’t exist.

Yet.

But let me explain further.

The book I just finished reading is the first book in the Riverworld Saga ‘To Your Scattered Bodies Go’. I enjoyed it, despite it lapsing into sexist and old fashioned views quite regularly, it’s definitely a little dated now, though part of that is because the main character is a Victorian Explorer.

Now, the basic premise of this series is incredible. Everybody in the history of Earth has been resurrected. Absolutely everybody. By some mysterious force. On a strange and vaguely Paradisical world. With no idea what’s going on.

Just think about that for a while….think of all the possible stories you can have in a world where everybody in history, from the cruellest dictator to the humblest peasant. From the most modern to the prehistoric. Every person ever.

There’s a lot of fun to be had in that setting.

The book picks a good path and makes for an entertaining yarn. But as the book continues, the options and possibility narrow. A narrative path is chosen and the adventures you imagined become, well…part of what you imagined but no longer part of the world that you’re reading.

I enjoyed the book, but I enjoyed my imagination more.

I guess this ain’t that bad, but it is frustrating.

Now, the book I’ve just started reading is called ‘Dying Inside‘ by Robert Silverberg. So far it’s actually been great, and quite unexpected it it’s route. But I still can’t help but think that the central idea is so fascinating, that I’m missing out on a million other stories that I want to read.

The central premise is that an aging telepath, as he grows old, is losing his power to read minds.

Really simple, but give space to have the whole raft of fears and worries about growing old and fading in a totally new way. It’s even got that Epilogue to The Tempest thing going on for it.

The emotional depth of the book, even just a few chapters in is incredible. It’s winding mid life crisis, with being a bit of a moody bastard, with the touching beauty (and horror) of being able to experience another person’s mind, with losing that, and hating it even more than you hated the power itself.

It’s powerful reading.

But it’s not the story my mind was imagining.

But then, that’s actually the joy of books really isn’t it. Seeing how someone elses mind works. It really is a joy; surprises come from that.

Now, us writers (ha) we know what that’s like from the inside, we’ve been surprised by ourselves, but its still not the same.

You can get so angry at an author when the characters don’t do what makes sense to you. But you remember, the characters aren’t you. The author isn’t you. You’re finding out things that don’t come from you.

Seeing into another persons mind.

Books are great.

***

I’ve kind of rushed this because I have to go to work, but still, what do you think?

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Yield To Total Elation

Indeed I will, I shall and I have been for the last hour.

The track (YTTE by Matmos) is only 9 minutes and seven seconds long. It is rare that I repeat a track this many times. But it’s just so damn good. Before I start talking about the music though..a bit of background.

Here’s what the artists themselves have to say, from their wonderfully detailed ‘discography’ 

Y.T.T.E.The title of this song refers to the imaginary city that visionary draftsman Achilles Rizzoli spent his life depicting. He peopled his city with skyscrapers, cathedrals and vast public buildings that symbolically represented the tiny group of friends and family members who supported his art and attended his occasional exhibitions. The letters Y.T.T.E. stand for Yield To Total Elation. We weren’t planning to copy it, but the opening synthesizer sound is a wee bit reminiscent of the synth intro to Madonna’s “Lucky Star”. Dunno why, but it is. Many people say the drums and bassline sound a bit like Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”. Others point out a certain (Robert) Fripp-ishness to the guitar solo. Pop music=total elation. The freaky guitar solo was made through an elaborately layered process: Mark Lightcap played a screaming psychedelic distorted guitar line through a rack of pedals and wahs and whammies, which was then burned as a soundfile on a CD, which was then physically scratched; the resulting skipping CD was recorded and then further chopped up in SoundEdit16 and then re-edited and manipulated in Digital Performer. We were told (jokingly?) the other day that the German electronic music magazine De:Bug refused to review “The Civil War” at all because there was a guitar solo on the record. Ha ha!

http://outsider.art.org/01intuit/americanmasters/010.html

Which is cool in itself. Some of the links are dead. I found some info and pics by Rizzoli here. Go to the full page on the album as well. Just click on the links…there’s so much here even if you haven’t heard the music.

A little bit of background on the artists. This is a brief excerpt from their label site.

Matmos is M. C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. They have toured with Lesser, Labradford, The Rachels and Bjork, shared stages with Terry Riley and Wire, remixed The Melvins and Otomo Yoshihide (and most recently Erase Errata), and are still working on an ongoing collaborative project with The Kronos Quartet. They have taught seminars on sound art at Harvard University and DJed at proms for homeless teenagers. They have had pieces in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and have scored the soundtracks for five gay porn films.

Bless ’em.

Anyway, know we know a little bit about them we’re almost ready to get on with the show. One last link though…if you don’t like music then just read this. It’s a wonderful bit of art talking by Otto Muehle, I’d never heard of him but they link a site from the discog excerpted above. Basically this made me laugh like a mule and at the same time I think it’s brilliantly intelligent…and covered in shit. What more could you want. I’m still touring the site…well, I will be once I’ve finished writing.

Anyway, it’s real time review time. I’m unlikely to be able to type fast enough to explain just how good this is. Really, there’s so much miraculous energy in this song. These guys have such a detailed ear for production. The subtlest things are lying around everywhere like a million little bits of magic hiding in a beautiful giant haystack. You dive in and enjoy the hay, then get hit on the head by a bit of magic and it turns you into a kind of primitive beast experiencing happiness for the first time and not quite being able to work out what it is.

Maybe.

Here goes…oh…and this is just one track of one of the best albums I’ve heard in a while. This is the one I think all of you should buy a thousand times. And I hate consumerism.

Get ready to Yield.

Tiny little toy box style noise. Just a little reverberating ting to start..then a couple more, then a magical floaty noise, some synth or other. Sounds like somethings being eaten by something large as well. Or maybe fireworks in the distance. Strum a guitar a coupla times. We’ve got a lot going on here…and it’s still just the intro.

Drums

Oh yes. Lovely drums, really lovely drums. Indeed the rhythm from lust for life.

But that’s not the point…it’s slower..its got much mroe energy though. Guitar part….looooovvvveeeeellllyyyyy riff. Like eating Love with your eaars.

I kind of want to cry at this point. Bass just adds to the drums. Occasional harp style glissando in the background. The guitar line is actually a coupkle of interlocking guitar lines at different levels. Finger picking style.

Then the electro guitar…drums constantly busying and building with this weird static guitar solo…sounds like someone beating up a really wanky guitar solo…but a good one.  Plus a noise I can’t even bring myself to describe, once a bar. It’s coming to the fore now.

The guitars are all fading out. We’re entering something new. The indescribable sound (like a kind of rich eating noise.. crossed with a snore…only made by organic robots…maybe not). is the main thrust here. High pitched noises rambling around. Loads of random sounds and bursts of weirdness in every direction.

THis is amazing. The tingling from the beginning is still there.

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

The magical factory of noise just suddenly cuts out for just long enough for me to come disturbingly close to orgasm. Then back in…a little more rhythmic and regular now. Not just trying to assault you randomly. Some great percussion sounds here…like someone playing bongos with those big gas tanks you get on the outskirts of towns. It’s all fading already…lovely little tinkling from the intro back….filling up the sound..going left to right. All alone…lost in a lovely ice cave or something.

Keeps on going…reverberating…like prayer bowls. Very high pitched. Someone’s playing a guitar occasionally…just plucking their way around it. Now it’s come to the fore. (Right channel first). Just like someone playing a basic guitar thing….everythings faded out apart from it now. It’s just kind of sitting there. Lovely actually….such a simple thing to do …just sit and play guitar. Now it’s being edited by computers…it’s like a buzzing. As they say above..very minimalist. A buzzing made out of guitar shifting up and down.

And the track ends abruptly.

Fuck yeah.

The track after ain’t half bad either. (It’s great actually…but now isn’t the time).

Still, I’m going to go back and listen to that again.

Louder…with my eyes closed.

Wonderful.

Venetian Snares – Hospitality

New record in the post.

Oh my word. I’ve already heard most of it before. But now I’m getting to consider it properly. This is the good shit. Sorry if all of my music reviews lately have been Breakcore related..I promise to write about other stuff eventually.

Anyway…on with the show. First track is a stormer…kind of like a certain type of Breakcore perfection. About two minutes of gentle synth intro, all world music sounding drums and a hint of a less shit Enya. Then it slams into action….and it is real action. The initial burst is formed as much of harsh synths as of hectic beats…the beats are ‘well hectic’.There’s definitely more to this though. The ‘melodic’ elements take the fore beautifully. Snares hasn’t really done this since the hungarian titled album (Rossz Szillag something something…..I can never remember the full name off hand). Only here it sounds less like an experiment in contrasting classical elements with the harsh thrust of the breakcore beats…but actually a beautiful experiment in maintaining a focus on something. The structure of the first track is incredible…pushing up and down all the time. Once the beats kick in they don’t really die until the end, but its not just full on aural assault (although it is that too) its a more balanced approach. It actually challenges you to think about the muscial qualities of it. There’s an amazing sense of energy and beauty here. More like real songs than just a kind of sonic sodomy. It still remains brutal and scattered enough to appease most tastes though.

I don’t want to describe this record as accessible…because it’s effectively a put down. Squarepusher did a similar thing on his latest album, eased up a little to do a more easy to listen to tour of his kind of sounds. I loved it, I didn’t think it was copping out…I think it was just a matter of relaxing enough to explore some simpler ideas…adding up a lot of what he’s learnt over the many years he’s been making head screwing music. He always had a good sense of instrumentation and melody though…Music is Rotted One Note proves that he doesn’t need beats to screw you to the wall in paroxysms of joy.

Anyway, the album isn’t really accesible…not to most…it’s is still settled on beats too disjointed for most people. The thing is…its got this melodic focus and the energy kind of makes more sense than usual. I’m a big fan of not making sense, but as an introduction to this type of music you could do a hell of a lot worse. On top of that it’s definitely a contender for being one of the best Breakcore albums he’s ever produced. As this is by Venetian Snares, that makes it one of the best albums in the whole screwed up genre.

I can sense the lasting appeal in this one to. There’s so much interest in it. The simpleness of the complication is just so damn warming. There’s a lot of brutality here…but its like it has a reason.

Ok, I’m starting the second side. This is opening with more conventional beats…that kind of pulsing bass synth so common to the genre. Then the beats slide out and you get a bass tone to consider…then the beats return…different though. The bounce here is infectious. So much energy and excitement. Harmony is the thrust so far…the melody has only just kicked in. This is amazing. It relaxes in a really impressive way. It doesn’t feel the need to just pound on your skull constantly…its doing a much better job by easing up and pushing the excessiveness in subtly. Subtle excess….wonderful.

Synth break….lovely structure to a beautiful toying with the melody. Then reintroducing the beat by (I think) putting the melodic elements through a granulizer or similar, and highlighting the rhythm of it. Then slamming the beats back in. This is pretty damn cool. It’s almost laid back…but not many people would agree with me there. The BPM is high enough to make you feel like you should be running at the speed you can only run when fleeing from a horrific and nightmarish monster. The end of the world is night..yet you’re still dancing.

A wash of phaser sounding synths….the kind of stuff my dearest Davey would describe as ‘space music’ in the joyous tones of a young child just discovering that magic is real…and it has a tasty beat.

That was a good track.

The album doesn’t ever entirely let up on the beats…it just makes it sound easier to listen to. The focus is perfect. At no point does it feel like you’re just being messed around for the sake of it. Structure and form are used to exceptional ability here.

This is really fucking good.

I mean…the things you can do with these simple ‘traditional’ jungle beats. The music has been twisted into something really special. Snares has been twisting for years. The sheer volume of output from that guys shed is incredible. Some of it is a bit lacklustre though. Its all pretty good at screwing your head up and giving you something to just bounce like a fool to. It really is made for dancing like you’ve forgotten how to dance but instead remember how to beat yourself and others up whilst having some kind of uncanny fit.

Not that I condone violence.

For such a short album (technically just an EP really) it is shocking just how many ideas and how much energy this thing has. There’s a joy in it too. You can tell that this guy actually lives, eats, breathes and shits music. I just don’t see any other way you could make such refined breakcore…refined…not like posh or anything…its just been treated to perfection.

Seriously…this is good. You should give it a listen…don’t just stick to samples of it though. Find the full tracks (and pay for them…this guy is on an independent and is exactly the type of music it is really important to support) and give them a play. Any sample can’t give you an impression of the richness of it. The ideas are carried out to their fullest extent.

The only way I can see of making it better by adding more accordians.

The album’s over, so I shall now stop writing.

Any questions?