Strangeization of Mainstream : Soldiers (ABBA song)

Eight and final studio album : The Visitors.

“Soldiers” is a strange song, a frightening one. A strange 6/4 drum beat, gorgeous and modulating synth strings (appreciate the fantastic out of tonality/back to it B -> Bm while “In the pale moonlight”), a haunting guitar, a splendid round bass line…

Well, it’s the best Abba album for me. A twilight. They knew it would be the last. It’s this fantastic braid of abba-istic gorgeousity AND risky or sad harmonies and lyrics. Sick songs…

The tool here is a recipe :

  1. Take a mainstream form : people expect something
  2. Add complexity or unexpected moods you never find normally in THAT form

 

It’s an old structure : do not add intensity, but complexity. Where will you do that?

Thanks for reading!

 

Let’s call this Strangeization of Mainstream…

A Matter of Levers

Sick Songs of Abba & Bee Gees

Fm Do I hear what I Cm think Im hearing
Fm Do I see the signs I Cm think I see
D Or is it just fantas E y  Fm
Is it true that the Cm7 beast is waking
Fm Stirring in his restless Cm7 sleep tonight
In the pale moon B light Bm
Fm In the grip of this c Cm7 old December
Fm You and I have reasonE to remember
Do I hear what I think I’m hearing
Do I see the signs I think I see
Or is this just a fantasy
Is it true that the beast is waking
Stirring in his restless sleep tonight
In the pale moonlight
In the grip of this cold December
You and I have reason to remember
Soldiers write the songs that soldiers sing
The songs that you and I don’t sing
They blow their horns and march along
They drum their drums and look so strong
You’d think that nothing in the world was wrong
Soldiers write the songs that soldiers sing
The songs that you and I won’t sing
Let’s not look the other way
Taking a chance
Cause if the bugler starts to play
We too must dance
What’s that sound, what’s that dreadful rumble
Won’t somebody tell me what I hear
In the distance, but drawing near
Is it only a storm approaching
All that thunder and the blinding light
In the winter night
In the grip of this cold December
You and I have reason to remember
Soldiers write the songs that soldiers sing
The songs that you and I don’t sing
They blow their horns and march along
They drum their drums and look so strong
You’d think that nothing in the world was wrong
Soldiers write the songs that soldiers sing
The songs that you and I won’t sing
Let’s not look the other way
Taking a chance
Cause if the bugler starts to play
We too must dance
Soldiers write the songs that soldiers sing
The songs that you and I won’t sing
Let’s not look the other way
Taking a chance
Cause if the bugler starts to play
We too must dance
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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!

 

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

In the seventies, music became really, really HUGE. We went from mono to stereo, and we heard constantly about Hi-Fi, High Fidelity. Pink Floyd! Dark Side of the Moon were used by stereo demonstrators…

In the eighties, the Compact Disc appeared. Music became cleaner : no more need to clean your vinyl records or your turntable : a better, clearer sound. Digital recordings were the best of the best! People were chasing “DDD” recordings, digitally recorded, mastered, and played… Great sound!

(Ambient musics lovers were in paradise : no more clicks and pops in quiet spaces!

The development of Internet in the nineties and music piracy pushed the mp3. Music was “compressed” (with loss), and weirdly, nobody seemed to care.

If you really listen to music, if you compare, if you have headphones, you notice something though : compressed music is a mess, it’s a DISASTER. You lose sound, textures, dynamics. Help!

Today, people listen to music on Bluetooth devices, in streaming, on mp3, on YouTube. It’s all compressed, crushed, squashed, and if it’s very convenient, it’s… just bad. If you have time, find your best David Bowie track and listen to it in MP3, then 320 MP3, then FLAC, on headphones, and be in a awe. Yep.

If your ears are just a little bit… educated, there are many ways to get good quality. New CDs with better “rates”, like SACD or DVD Audio. Compressed “lossless” music, like APE or FLAC. Vinyl is back for its “warm” sound, too. It’s more complicated, today, consequently, but I think it’s worth thinking about it.

Let’s finish on this paradox :

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!

But when I was 14 years old, I was in love, I had the LP, and I listened it in loop, every day. So, isn’t the “warmth” of the LP just linked with the memory of the poor sound of this era? I, really, don’t know.

Today I miss the big sleeves, but not much. I don’t miss MP3’s sound. Do you?

Have a nice day!

 

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Sick Songs of Abba & Bee Gees

Every pop music lover knows Abba & Bee Gees. Long careers, huge success, big hits, etc.

You don’t need to be a big connaisseur to notice something special about them. Behind the good music and arrangements, you can feel some melancholy. It’s maybe their secret after all ?

And sometimes some sickness too. Some nastiness maybe ? (I wanted to say “meaniness” but it does not seem to be english…).

I like to find a lever pushed a little too far in this kind of mainstream pop-music. A quiet-disturbing element, a new harsh sound, a instrumental bridge… weirdly made.

Take the first 20 seconds of Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme, listen loud, and admit you’ve never heard that :

Gimme Gimme Gimme

If you go from 02:50 to 3:40 in the same track, you realise that you have a mean bizarre robotic synthetic loop, before a feverish orchestra and some haunted voices… Not that common in pop music !

Bee Gee’s Liar is similar… Every line is like weirdoed by strange harmonies, risky notes, and so within a clear disco structure you’ve got a… sick piece of song, like a dark ill version of their music.

Liar

Lever : How could we call it ? You have a project, a painting, a music, a concept, and you think you’re lost, too comfortable. Take a lever, push it too far. Go 130%. Go mean, tensed, unappropriate, whatever. Add too much pepper in your soup. OK, let’s call it Lever-130.

#sky #sun #architecture #clouds
#sky #sun #architecture #clouds

 

The Abba/Puccini syndrome

OK I’m french. My english is a frenglish, it’s rusty and wobbly, et voilà. Try me, though. I’ll do my best. I promise. If sometimes it’s too bad, just laugh at me or roll your eyes.

Wiki says : “A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and, often, with a specific disease.”

The Abba/Puccini syndrome is easy to explain. It’s a misunderstanding. Or a miscomprehension, allez savoir !

Abba was VERY popular, but a whole bunch of people hated them, rockers, indie critics, etc. Today most of the haters are… in a awe, they are embarrassed, they say “OMG they were, in fact, so good”. On every floor : Melodies. Hits. Production. Voices. Modernity. Melancholy. Arrangements.

Abba : I’m a Marionette

Puccini is the most played opera composer in the world. La Bohème, says Wikipedia, “remains one of the most frequently performed operas ever written”. Victim of its own popularity, he’s often seen as the composer of opera “hits”, like Nessun Dorma. And, at many moments, he’s obviously Italian (ce côté éperdu et ensoleillé du Nord de l’Italie). And this HIDES the modernity of his music. Puccini was admired by composers like Schoenberg, Ravel, and Stravinsky. Experiments and strange harmonic progressions colour the fabric of his music. You just have to listen what is “under”, or watch closely his funny way to drive harmony like a racing car :

Beginning of Manon Lescaut

Dial : Some artists can be victims of popularity, but this syndrome is double worse : success hides sophistication.

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