Tag Archives: Weirdness

Radio Free Ambibath

I’ve just had a rather strange and awakening experience.

I’m currently reading The Divine Invasion, more of my ongoing obsession with Dick you see.

Anyway, I’m astonished by how much of a rollercoaster ride it’s been already. Normally when I read something by Dick I start of fascinated, and become increasingly so until I reach a point of complete bafflement that barely eases up.

Well…I’m starting to get used to it, the recurring motifs are easy enough to pick out, and I have read a lot now (coming soon is my dissertation essay on Dick and the Uncanny by the way…but first I need to proof it…which I probably should have done before I handed it in to be graded…but what the heck).

But this is the second in the mental breakdown/divine revelation trilogy, and it’s bat fucking insane.

I mean…it’s incredible. I feel like I need to read the Torah just to have a clue what’s going on.

But it’s deeper than just religion. There’s something grand here about a basic understanding of the universe. It really is a bit like taking your feet off the ground and realising that the ground isn’t there any more.

It is surprisingly coherent if you pay attention and remember to step back…but there’s a strange rhythm to the madness, and occasionally it’s terrifying.

My own experiences of mental breakdown start to flit into my mind as I read.

Brilliant and terrifying. Wonderful.

Anyway, so I’m stepping into the bath, tuning in my clockwork radio. I couldn’t find the French Jazz I normally listen to, and so fiddle around until I think I can hear something interesting.

I hear something interesting, but with the water running I can’t tell if it’s static or not. There’s some kind of irregular pulsing noise, a cat screaming and all manner of fuzz and lack of definition. I finally tune it in properly and get rid of the fuzz, only to find that the cat and the pulse are really there. The cat fades after a while and I realise that I’m sinking into the water to the sound of echoing abstract noise. Little bursts of strange eerie sound bubble around me. (Also I’m farting a bit…but you don’t need to know that).

Anyway, it slowly becomes clear that I’m listening to a new local community radio station, which is doing a programme full of ambient soundscapes and ‘sonic sculptures’. There was some great stuff there…including a really bizarre vocal harmony loop that was almost terrifying in its beauty. Then as it builds you start to get sound processing on the top end…little mechanical bubbles in the tone of her voice (mechanical bubbles…how in the hell does that work?). Really really amazing. (Brightoners check out Radio Reverb, apparently it starts broadcasting live tomorrow, though they’ve got recorded preview stuff playing already).

So I’m here, listening to frighteningly bizarre music and reading horrifically wonderful prose, realising that I’m a massive pretentious cock.

Either that or I just really love strange experiences. That noise was amazing, really makes you re-evaluate the way you hear. The book  to is so different to anything else. There’s a narrative and people and happenings, but there’s another level of wonder. A fear that you might learn something you can’t unlearn.

Okay…So I definitely am pretentious…but it doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful that this kind of stuff is going on. It’s great to stumble on that kind of weird and wonderful thing…especially when you’re in the right state to absorb it.

Live for the Weird Experience.

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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?

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?