Musical Genres & Gorgeousities

Musical Genres & Structures : that was a lovely title, right? I changed it though…

It came to me in the shower, thinking about my “Best Albums of 2018” researches.

  1. I found many musics, soul, rap, indie rock, folk, metal, jazz…
  2. I found many shades of complexity, from simple to fractured or dissonant.

So I can draw an orthonormal coordinate system :

  • Horizontal would be “Complexity” (fractured, dissonant, too much something (too slow, too molten))
  • Vertical would be “Pleasure”.

So it becomes a cloche, a bell, a dome.

cloche-2.jpg

On the left, things like Cat Power, Wanderer. Choose anything, you’ll be “Ah, OK”. A “gorgeous” voice, some quiet melancholy, piano, etc. Predictible thus boring. And everybody LOVES her. It’s not the genre (I am very found of Vienna Teng), but the absolute no invention/no surprise. Harmonically poor. Lazy structures & production. “She is art”, I read on YouTube. MMmmmh she’s not.

On the right end of the cloche, Sophie lost me. Too dissonant, too fractured. I need more structure, even in a multi-layered complex harmonically track like this. Like in the proliferant Tim Exile‘s Family Galaxy

So what’s in the bell?

Esperanza Spalding, 12 Little Spells makes me focus : What’s happening here? Go to 1’40”, or just listen to the intro. It’s like Science put into folk or soul. Harmonically risky (exhausting), it’s all about to lose me, but as it’s constantly snakily keeping me back into pleasure (modulations). Typical : I maybe dislike, but I wanna go back to it, and I’ll finish poisoned and in love.

Oh OK I love gorgeous soul, a bit sophisticated like Blood Orange or The Internet “Hive Mind”. It’s not risky, it’s just well done. Ah, I found this : “…is making me wanting to wear some lingerie and just dance on front of a mirror” – I’m not a girl but I understand this well. The modulation (0’40”), the bass, the production…

I kept AAL, US Girls, Let’s Eat Grandma and Mistsi… All in the cloche, not too predictable, but far from avant-garde either.

I wanted to finish this article with the idea that “I seek complexity in music”, more than simplicity, but I think that’s wrong.

I do love Annie Clark’s St Vincent, which is complex pop, but my two loves are Blonde Redhead and Röyksopp, which are skilled musicians with gorgeous harmonies. Hmmm… complex chords and modulations? Mike Oldfield, where are you?

I do prefer Bartok and Stravinsky than Mozart, and I explored the oceans of complexity of Mahler, a lot, but the composers I love most are Puccini and Brahms. It’s less complicated than Boulez, but it’s harmonically gorgeous.

It makes me think again about that : why do people love music? Energy? Lyrics? Warmth? Being in love with the singer? Virtuosity? Remembrance?

If you had to choose your best albums of 2018, what would you seek? One genre only, or one structure (like : great lyrics, big energy, danceability), which you could find anywhere?

Tool :

Choose your field : movies, books, sports. What is your coordinate system? What does it become?

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Best Albums 2018?

I googled “Best Albums 2018” and clicked on ten pages, with 50 or 40 albums each time.

It’s a fast zapping exercise (I need 10 seconds to know I don’t like – my platitude and clichés detector is very accurate – what’s more horrible than lazy folk?).

Here’s what tickled my ears :

Kamasi Washington, a jazz music I could explore and love.

Skee Mask is a bit too much “abstract techno” for me, but I kept listening…

Blood Orange, a luxury soul sound, made me listen to the whole album.

The Internet got me “wait whatting” all along : great bass, production, slight dissonances… I’m client for neo-soul…

Against all Logic almost lost me, but each time something was happening in the music to keep me listening.

Let’s Eat Grandma, or Arctic Monkeys, U.S. Girls, Mitski – mmh, we’ll see.

Sometimes it’s too deconstructed (I heard this pain in jazz, rap, soul), but the boundaries are interesting. Like with Esperanza Spalding. Like in “12 Little Spells” : dangerous harmonies, quietly dancing with the vocal melody…

Spent time exploring : Mitski, Blood Orange, The Internet. You? What are you albums of 2018?

IMG_6178.jpg

 

 

Oldfield’s Amarok

To talk about Mike Oldfield‘s Amarok makes me feel I have to show a metal rock lover that Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is amazing. Therefore I try.

Oldfield is known for Tubular Bells (1973) and one hit (Moonlight Shadow – 1983).

His wiki talks about Virgin, Warner then Mercury years, but I see this career as a struggle between the Tubular Bells source (long complex and rich progressive instrumentals) and the… need to sell more albums.

His greatest albums are the first ones, with little good things in Discovery or Tubular Bells II & III. The whole pack, since, is absolutely bad (and it stays a mystery to me, harmonically, I mean). The good albums :

Tubular Bells (1973)
Hergest Ridge (1974)
Ommadawn (1975)
Incantations (1978)
Platinum (1979)
QE2 (1980)
Five Miles Out (1982)
Crises (1983)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Amarok (1990)

Amarok was the last album he had to do for Virgin, which he… made it a sabotage (it’s all explained in the wiki) :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amarok_(Mike_Oldfield_album)

“a single sixty-minute track of continuous, uninterrupted but constantly changing music”

  • Yes, a bit like Puccini’s music (hundreds of little facets of music).
  • Disturbing or crazy events and noises (hits of orchestra, beer can opening, teeth brushing).
  • Complex and even sometimes difficult harmonies.
  • Gigantic crescendos, like the one in the middle, Ommadawnesque.
  • Fabulous harmonies, reverse sounds, and other chaotic pleasures.
  • Spoons, shoes, a vacuum cleaner, next to acoustic bass guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, bass guitar, bass whistles, bouzouki, bell tree, bodhran, bowed guitar, cabasa, classical guitar, electric guitars, organs, Flamenco guitar, glockenspiel, high-string guitar, jaw harp, kalimba,mandolin, marimba, melodica, Northumbrian bagpipes, penny whistles, percussion, piano, psaltery, rototom, sitar guitar (a Coral electric sitar), spinet, timpani, tubular bells, twelve-string guitar, ukulele, violin, vocals, and wonga box.

 

So imagine a one hour record, made of 784 little pieces of great music, sewed with disturbing machines, almost impossible to listen – but if you do, you reach a pile of as many music orgasms as the number of fingers you have.

Yes it’s cousin to Royksopp. Harmonically, I mean. This is a science.

 

The pattern is :

“A great artist is about, in a crazy move driven by huge work, to build a BIG SICK MASTERPIECE that almost NO ONE can appreciate, except a handful of connoisseurs”.

 

Well, you can try the end, which is a triple monster crescendo. Go to 44:15, put your headphones on, and listen loud.

Tell me what you think in the comments.

Have a nice day!

 

 

Hello everyone
I suppose you think that nothing much is happening at the moment
Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha
Well, that’s what I want to talk to you all about; endings
Now, endings normally happen at the end
But as we all know, endings are just beginnings
You know, once these things really get started, it’s jolly hard to stop them again
However, as we have all come this far, I think, under the circumstances
The best solution is that we all just keep going
Let’s keep this going in sight, never an ending
Let’s remember that this world wants fresh beginnings
I feel here, in this country, and throughout the world,
we are crying out for beginnings, beginnings
We never want to hear this word “endings”
I know we all want to sit down
I know you want to take it easy
Of course we’re looking for the good
Of course we’re looking for the fresh start

 

 

2 CDs : Sylvian & Karn’s melancholies

In this series I’ll pick 2 CDs. Exercise to remember why I own them. Game to find links between them. Find out if I like these musics today. Will to share unknown things with you.

  1. David Sylvian, Brilliant Trees , 1984.
  2. Mick Karn, Dreams of Reasons Produce Monsters, 1987.

Both were members of a group named Japan – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_(band) – Sylvian was the singer and Karn the bass player.

Brilliant Trees‘s sleeve was gorgeous in vinyl. I always loved this photography! Sophisticated pop, incredible voice, melancholy. The track I chose to YouTube you is a perfect example : veils, calm trumpets, a very smart way to use modulations, and a magical “I quit the pray to fly up to the sky like a balloon” in the end.

Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters (this title comes from Goya and I let you meditate about this magic phrase) is dark, ethnical, quiet, nocturnal, full of surprises (songs sung by Sylvian, clarinets, percs), like a path in a night of… dreams. Mostly instrumental.

Melancholies, sophistications (constructions, sounds, moods), elegance…

Havve a nice day!

IMG_1427.jpg

When you come to me
I’ll question myself again
Is this grip on life still my own

When every step I take
Leads me so far away
Every thought should bring me closer home

And there you stand
Making my life possible
Raise my hands up to heaven
But only you could know

My whole world stands in front of me
By the look in your eyes
By the look in your eyes
My whole life stretches in front of me
Reaching up like a flower
Leading my life back to the soil

Every plan I’ve made’s
Lost in the scheme of things
Within each lesson lies the price to learn

A reason to believe
Divorces itself from me
Every hope I hold lies in my arms

And there you stand
Making my life possible
Raise my hands up to heaven
But only you could know

My whole world stands in front of me
By the look in your eyes
By the look in your eyes
My whole life stretches in front of me
Reaching up like a flower
Leading my life back to the soil

Music Maps?

ONE

Yesterday I did my exercises. Nah, not pumping iron!

In my locker I chose randomly a 2-3 years old magazine, to read it while I have lunch.

(I don’t like small talk lunches. I sit elsewhere to be alone. My INFTJ alone time is my quality time).

RifRaf was a Belgian free indie rock magazine. I read some interviews of groups I never heard about, then a dozen pages of LP reviews.

I’m 52 and I grew up musically in the eighties, when the “pop-rock era” was still explorable. Gradually, this market became so complex and so huge that I had to learn how to let go – though I suffered a bit, in the 2000s, of a Fear of Missing Something syndrome.

Now that my family has exploded and my daughters adults, I have more time to dive into this indie rock universe, from time to time…

TWO

So : I read reviews and forget all of them immediately – except like 4-5 names I screenshot or write on a piece of paper I fold in my pocket.

Then I torrent’em, home. I’m sorry. It’s because I hate to discover a singer on YouTube, I don’t need images. Let’s blush and assure I’m a “good pirate” : when I love a group I FLAC or MP3 torrented, I buy the CD. I promise!

St Vincent. Blonde Redhead. Vienna Teng. Röyksopp. MGMT. Loney Dear. I bought them!

THREE

I didn’t find much good things, Bert Jansch turned my mind into grey ashes (all good but boring harminies), Animal Collective is too nonsensy – I’m bored-frightened.

I was caught though by the veils and lacy-beats of Cabaret Contemporain – you just wanna microdance with your lover (infinite little movements of shoulders, OK?) in the sunny triangles of the living room. Enough to listen to the whole album.

But how come, each time I find good songwriting, it’s from guys from the North?? The biggest discovery of my last decade were Röyksopp (Norway), and Loney Dear (Sweden). Today the 3 LPs of Jacob Bellens are playing in a happyloop here.

FOUR

Bellens is typically a Type, for me. In an harmonically so poor universe, someone who just KNOW what a bass line really is, someone who tries some smart progression of chords, who knows what a modulation is, becomes like a “Small Wizard”. The man who takes care of music.

Röyksopp are geniuses. I’ve been intoxicated by Loney Dear, Annie Clark or Blonde Redhead. No intoxication here. Jacob Bellens is just… good, always pleasant, a constant disseminator of small good ideas. A sound, a melody, a chord…

Candy for my ears.

FIVE

I found music-map.com, started with Bellens, found that Blonde Redhead links were pretty accurate, and now after a Röyksopp search I’m lost on YouTube for the day!

https://www.music-map.com/r-f6yksopp.html

 

(approaching nervous breakdown maybe ohlala)

Have a nice Sunday!

JP

 

Continue reading

The Return of the Vinyl

ONE

I’m 52 and therefore I grew up with vinyls, LPs, EPs and singles.

I had dozens and dozens LPs. I was listening to music daily. It’s strongly associated in my head with the pleasure of music discoveries.

I remember Talking Heads and King Crimson, Mike Oldfield and Yes, second hand’s Genesis’ Trick of the Tail, the first time I listened to Killing Fields, or Soil Festivities and Mask (Vangelis), or EPs of Kate Bush, Bryan Ferry, Propaganda or Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I remember the singles : AC-DC (Hell’s Bells), Stranglers (Golden Brown), Buggles (Video Killed), The Police (Spirits in the Material World), etc…

TWO

I remember, in the end of the eighties, the excitation triggered in music lovers : Compact Disc! A better sound, no more surface noises and clicks and pops, no need to clean them, no needle to brush…

I bought my first one in Germany. It was “the first CD not available in Vinyl” : Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon. And for good reason : it was one single track, one hour long!

Since then I never bought any vinyl anymore. Indeed, vinyl became boring for everyone, with all it’s flaws, the dust everywhere, the risky exercise which it to change track (a wrong move and you have a scratch).

I love classical music. 70 mn on a CD is perfect. And a great sound, and… etc. The only regret we all had was… the sleeves.

THREE

I hear today about “the return of vinyl”.

Vinyls are beautiful. The sleeves are taller and gorgeous! I know that. And it’s a pleasure to “own” your LP (and the sound IS better than any streaming shit, yep).

I have to say that the main asset of this music listening process is you go back to the idea of listening an “album”, a whole suite of tracks. There’s no “next track” on a turntable!

FOUR

This, of course, triggers facepalms for many music lovers with a little experience. The “warmer sound”? It’s noisy, with clicks and pops, and it’s dirty all the time, and more :

Digital does not really exist…

Analog or digital, it’s just a “recording thing”. In the end : the speaker are vibrating (analog), the air is moving (analog) and your eardrum TOO.

The “warmer and richer” vinyl sound does not even exist. But I do understand one has the idea of it. “Warmer”. Yeah yeah yeah. I suppose that when you grew up with MP3, you find it warmer. Vinyl listening becomes like eating roasted chicken with french fries, plenty of sauce and onions, and carrots and pees, after the MP3 diet : crispbread with nothing on it.

Hi-Fi meant “High Fidelity” – What about the sound quality, now?

 

“The LP’s drawbacks include surface noise, less resolution due to a lower Signal to Noise ratio and dynamic range, stereo crosstalk, tracking error, pitch variations and greater sensitivity to handling”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_analog_and_digital_recording

 

FIVE

The return of the vinyl is not real. The market climbs a little, because it’s trendy. I was a vinylseller in 1989, and I can tell you it was fucking something else!

 

SIX

…says the contrary, what I called my Abba shock :

One day I downloaded a HUGE Flac archive of “Abba 24Bit Vinyl Pack” (each album weighed almost a gigabyte – a CD is mastered in 16 Bits, normally). So I began to listen on my expensive Sennheiser headphones a luxurious lossless compression of Vinyl music, digitalized at an splendid rate…. with a slight wow and flutter, some clicks and pops too, and Oh. My. God. It was fantastic!

What’s that paradox? Digitalized vinyl at high rate, without compression (Flac instead of Mp3) gave me an ears orgasm. Nailed.

OK. you won. I give up.

 

Have a nice day!

 

331785795_2-abba-4-albums-vinyle-33-tours-1979-1979-1980-1983.jpg

 

 

 

Amelie Lens is dancing

I follow Amelie Lens on Instagram. She’s a Belgian DJ and she’s very very pretty. She has an “official” account with almost 300.000 followers. Good!

I just watched her live on Instagram.

YouTube her! You’ll find long concert movies made of this : short patterns, loud and fast rhythms, her happy energy to trigger these things. And no music at all. Not intent. Not a single idea. And she’s very pretty. And she’s dancing in front of her turntables.

Turning buttons happiness…

She made a hit, I think. Here it is. 1 720 964 views :

 

Then : you don’t understand, right? Me neither.

I tried. I’m interested in this music. I like to explore (though I prefer to explore other musical fields, from Boulez to ECM).

 

I love repetition and energy, like The Field (this guy know EXACTLY what he’s doing) who knows how to make you wait until orgasm :

 

Or the dry abstract Trentemoller, like a lego builder :

 

Or the modutating loud energy of Digitalism (two single ideas, but good ones – an harmonic one and a production one (dirty/clear)) :

 

I can even feel the trancy vulgarity of Astrix (listen all of it, loud) :

 

Or Vitalic, like a mainstream gorgeous thing, right?

 

Chemical Brothers, with the ever building Surface to Air (don’t watch the clip) :

 

 

All these guys are “music programmers”. Their musical tools are pretty… weak (small simple melodies, big rhythms, wait/relaunch processes), but for all of them I see what they do. I notice their “thing”. It’s delightful sometimes!

Not for Amelie Lens. I watched plenty of hers. The happiness of triggering buttons, wait/relaunches, and fuck : not a single idea.

It’s useful to have this milestone. The zero one. Röyksopp is the other milestone. At the other side of the bar : intoxicating “too many ideas”.

Why? How? What do I miss? Why do people love this? When something you don’t understand/dislike seems to reach zero, what about this rush of the mind : “What?”. Is the seek worth it?

Why do I dream to ask her this question :

“How do you progress?”

 

Thanks for reading!

amelie-lens.jpg