Tag Archives: Nonsense

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.

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It’s all in your head – Ways of Listening

So, this is about a lot of discussions I have with people. It’s about music, but it’s not going to be just like my random reviews of music. I want to look in a bit more depth at why I like music so much, and some of the kind of processual analysis of music that I do.

Woah, that sounded really heavy there, I actually meant something closer to the title. I listen to music in unusual ways sometimes.

No, this still isn’t right.

There’s a lot of different kinds of music. I like most of them. It’s a question of how you listen to it. Or mood. I’ve had arguments though. Sometimes the stuff I listen to is too abstract for some. John Cage for example. It seems to be as much about the ideas behind the music as the actual music itself. But it’s still possible to have both.

So I have a theory.

There’s a load of different layers of meaning to a piece of music. These can be obvious or non-obvious. Something with a sturdy bass drum and a 4/4 beat might imply that it has a dancing rhythm. A nice simple repeated rhythm can (and will) make me want to move. Stuff that is good to dance to is often a little more predictable, so you know where to move even if you haven’t heard it before.

The layer I’m most likely to skip is the one most people think is most prominent. I think it might me because I have bad ears…but I rarely concentrate on lyrics. A vocal part I can listen to, but only once the song has grabbed my attention (or I’m reading the lyric sheet) will the actual meaning of the words really sink in.

Odd considering my usual passion for words.

Anyway, then there’s the nostalgia element. A lot of the time songs have a very personal meaning caused by past events. Times when the song has been present for. The song your heart first broke to will always bring a twinge, even if its by S Club 7 (am I joking? I honestly can’t remember….it wasn’t really love anyway…the broken heart came much later). The songs of your childhood, even the ones you hated at the time. Always bring a smile, because they remind you of the times when everything was big and blurry (I didn’t get glasses until I hit around 10/11…I think this is part of the reason I have very little specific memory of life before this….but I have no evidence…so ignore me).

That is one of the ones that I think is actually a cheat. That’s not what it should be about…though it is the most commonly ascribed (in people I’ve talked to about this at least) reason for liking music. It reminds you of good times, or allows you to relive those times…in some way or another.

Anyway, it’s a reason. I kind of have a problem with it…as I think there actually is something in music that is special in and of itself. When I’m DJing I often get complaints from people that I don’t play enough stuff they’ve heard before. This always pisses me off. I mean…If they’re saying what I’m playing is shit, that’s fine, but its just they want something that ‘everybody knows’…but why not just enjoy new things…there’s a great John Cage quote about that: ‘I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.’

I know I’ve put it on here before…but it’s a really important thought.

Anyway, there’s more to this.

The sound itself wraps you up. There’s the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements. They move your head around and make you feel things. Emotions are expressed through tonality and structure. Energy pulses along with the music. You can feel your brain dancing, even if your legs aren’t. There’s a hidden layer in there…one you make up yourself. You fill in gaps and make guesses. That’s why unexpected shifts take you by surprise..you may not even realise it but you’re predicting what will come next. There’s a satisfaction if you’re right, and even more if you’re wrong. The surprise is nice.

This is all very much unconscious, though sometimes you can work it out. You’re just trying to come to terms with bits and pieces of this weird process by which you understand these shapes of noise.

It’s really fucking screwy isn’t it.

Like…seriously weird. I mean…you just receive these vibrations in the air. Just a bit better organised that the noises and sounds that fill up our life, just put into a structure, and suddenly they have a whole load of emotion meaning, a narrative, all that kind of stuff.  Out of just organising these sounds. A Saxophone just organises air into a nice uniform order so taht you get this huge rich boom noise. It gives it a texture, almost a taste. It becomes something that is part of a bigger structure even than that, the harmony of the song, the rhythm; structure through time.

Crazy.

So then someone like Cage comes along and starts asking some weird questions: “Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?” (all Cage quotes are from wikiquote by the way, though I read them first from other sources).

I mean…Music is Noises, right? Well…that’s the theory. You can take a noise, and it is music. Of a sort. It may be less organised. But it is still a noise which has an effect right. So the essay I wrote that I just linked to, that’s talking about Noises being shifted in to music using samplers. You can get a sound and turn it into music. Any sound at all. Like when Matmos are playing around with a Cow’s Vaginal Tract or a Printing press, or when Matthew Herbert (Radioboy in this case) is eating a MacDonalds and giving away the music for free.

Now, I’m going back into territory I’ve already trod, but basically, by adding specific objects (and the noises they make) to their music, these guys (as well as others) are adding an extra, almost undetectable element to the song. You have to look it up to find out what it is about, but it is something totally intrinsic to the piece in question. It is a type of creative process, it is also actually an inherent element of the noises you listen. The music is made out of the object. The moment of performance is ‘summoned’ when you listen…and if you know the details…you become aware that the music is more than it appears. That squeaking noise is a cows vaginal tract being played like a bag pipe…that Rushing and booming sound is a Diet Coke being drunk.

The items are being used for other than their intended purpose, the meaning itself is subverted, or at least given a new meaning. The song also inherits some of the meaning of the object. But only through reading the liner notes or investigating  the music we hear on the internet do we find out what these meanings are. They are slightly outside of the music, even though they are at its core. (Check out Matthew Herberts perspective here)

That is interesting.

Music is really interesting.

Plus I love accordions.

What do you think?

“Life ain’t Nothing but Bitches and Money” – A half arsed discussion of Psychoanalytic and Marxist Criticism

God…that title looks boring.

Anyway, basically, I’m going to do a half arsed version of an essay I’ve been intending to do for ages. But because its Sunday, I’m not going to do any research, and I’m probably going to stop halfway through to start tidying up my room.

Still, at least I’ve got an NWA quote in the title.

Anyway, lets get on this.

So, I guess this could be considered an attack on the grand narratives of Freudian Psychoanalysis and Marxism. Which is interesting because It think there are lessons to be learnt from both. Its just the old post modernist thing of attacking the grand narratives I guess. Plus when you try and summarise Freud and Marx using the words of Ice Cube…it becomes much clearer just how much the two can be seen to reducing everything to nothing.

Lets (for some reason) ignore the fact that Freud was a sexist pig who had no idea of anything that happened in the lives of people who didn’t live in Middle class Vienna. This is probably a gross oversimplification of him…but that’s all that everybody ever does with Freud, which is perhaps the problem. My housemate did Psychology at Uni, and she always finds it interesting that I did loads of stuff on Freud (in my Literature degree) when they were taught from the beginning that the whole thing was unprovable tosh. Freud and the interpretations of Freud (we’re talking Lacan’s phallus here by the way) are still prevalent modes of criticism in the field of Literature.

There is genuinely some really interesting stuff going on there. You can compare Freud’s understanding of ‘the dream work’, that is the way our subconscious presents thoughts in dreams but then we encode and disguise them so our conscious mind doesn’t have to face up to the unpleasant truths within, with the practice of writing and creativity. The construction of meaning in writing can be compared to an expression of the mind of the author (who, as we all know, is dead) being transmitted through the veiling and changing process of language. Does that make sense to anyone who isn’t a pretentious wanker? Possibly not. But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on there. For the likes of Nick Royle, literature is a form of telepathy (I’ll post my dissertation on Philip K Dick at some point for more discussion of this) between the minds of author and reader. In fact this is probably a gross mis-interpretation, but that’s what I always got out of it. In fact I think that its closer to empathy at least half of the time. Good literature has an ability to make you feel a situation, rather than just think about it. That’s why we love reading even when its not the smartest and wittiest and most intelligent pieces of Canonical literature. That’s why ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow’ books are still damn good.

Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an excellent book that essentially deals with psychoanalysis through the medium of a witty and fast paced sci fi narrative. Read it now…its worth it. The writing seems a little stilted at times but the pace and humour is so good that you forgive it immediately…and its a first novel…so its a pretty damn fine achievement. I won’t analyse it now as it would spoil it. First person who lives in my area and e-mails me asking for it can borrow my copy.

Anyway. The point is that you need to get the whole breadth of Psycholanalysis being considered in order to get something useful out of it. I don’t like the way that one tiny element has effectively become the whole grand narrative. Its a simplification. Everything is about sex…apparently…it just becomes a hunt for phallic symbols and returns to the womb. Eye removal is apparently synonymous with castration anxiety…as is almost anything else that can happen. I mean…I can appreciate that people think about sex a lot…I sure do. I can even see how it could be considered one of the primary motivational drives. The reproductive drive (continuance of DNA…the selfish gene and all that jazz) is the obvious motivation. But even Freud had to override that with the Death Drive once he saw the results of the First World War. I don’t know…I guess its the reductionism of most psychoanalytic criticism that pisses me off. It is possible to take note of Siggy and not actually have to make everything about a couple of out dated and genuinely quite ridiculous statements. If most psychologists think that its nonsense…then why is the literary world still so obsessed with the Mother Loving Austrian Prick.

And I haven’t even mentioned Oedipus yet.

Anyway. Marxism is something i like. The key reduction here is viewing everything through a system of economic relationships. Sahil believes that every relationship is a constant series of negotiations…and that applies on International levels and on personal relationships. For Marx it’s about class war (aside: protest on campus once…someone yelled out ‘its a class war’ and got the biggest laugh of the day as everybody noted that in fact the only classes present were the middle…that’s what University protests are all about..middle class kids pretending they aren’t) and the constant dialectic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The important thing however, is that everything becomes economic. The money and the value of goods is exchanged, and this leads to the exploitation and alienation of the proletariat etc etc blah blah blah.

We all know about it. If you don’t (or just like re contextualised works) look at this .

Anyway, I’m talking through a literary lens today…so lets go into what Marxist literary criticism is like. Basically, (I think) literature is considered complicit in the oppression of the ‘people’. It forms part of the ruling hegemony (unless it is subverting it of course) and creates and uses language to promote the status quo. The ideology of the ruling class controls the language and uses its meanings to impose its thought upon people. Language itself is guilty of oppression, which is why people try to screw the system up by subverting language itself. Look for those experimental poets fucking shit up. My mate Jeffers does a fine job of it. I think its all well and good. I kind of tend to agree with bits and pieces of it to an extent. But at the same time…I don’t like the idea that language is to blame. Can we not change language. I mean…I know language and meaning has its limits. But the beauty of language is in the fact that it changes every fucking time you use it. Every time I use a word in the company of someone…then for both of us that word acquires a meaning related to that moment. It adds an extra level to it. A lot of the stuff in my short story posted below (Abort , Retry, Fail) is little words and phrases that only make sense to me and a couple of people who will recognise the original situation. I don’t know if it makes sense to put them in there…but I think it actually challenges other readers to associated new meaning with those phrases. The story isn’t as subversive as I’d originally hoped…but it certainly is a struggle to read…it makes you think…but at no point to I make up or invert language. Everything is in vaguely accurate English. The grammar is disjointed…but you generally understand what is going on.

Anyway, I’m going to edit it soon and hopefully it’ll be better then.

I’ve rambled off topic.

Basically..the general point is that grand theories must be looked at in all their intricacies, and should be only used as a lens. You must be aware that you are making a certain judgement of something using a certain set of rules laid out, by that something.

Life is more than sex and economics. Don’t reduce things to that. Look at everything. If you’re being Marxist..then note that you’re being Marxist and try and think of what the other side is. same for Freud…don’t just glue yourself to his ideas so that eventually all you can see is cocks flying through tunnels or whatever it is that Freud saw everywhere.

Hmm,

I haven’t said anything have I…ah well…any thoughts? Any questions? Want to call me a big shit and tell me I’m wrong? Go on…make a comment…I dares ya.

Edit: Read the commments if you haven’t. My second comment below actually ends up saying what I was trying to say above but couldn’t quite figure out.