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

 

 

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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
jprobocat_14540656_354147778255340_1680376409479970816_n.jpg

Tissot, Pollock, Eno, Lovers : Sonic Places & Environments

ONE

It’s a bit strange these days in France : the weather’s like summer. I know it’s pretty common in California to wear tee-shirts in October, but NOT in the North of France. My scarf stays in her drawer, though : it’s hot here.

Yesterday I biked to work, and as it’s October, the sun is already low on the horizon. But the air was weirdly warm – like in August’s mornings.

So this sunday morning we did this : I took Isis the cat and put it outside of the bedroom (because she wants to explore gutters and the roof and we don’t want her to do that), I closed the door, opened the window and we stayed in bed bathing in the sun.

We could hear the outside warm autumnic world : a passing car, a quiet wind, a bird, church’s bells (strangely close, like happy sunny), a crying baby very far and… Isis putting her little cat snout meowing her dramadistress : “I wanna come in I wanna sun with youuu meaowwww”.

Delightful quiet sunny sonic place, all these at the same time : bell, wind, birds, cat, baby… and a little moaning (but it’s a secret where it came from).

 

TWO

For no reason, let’s watch this movement between figuration and abstract. It’s a whole thing to study, but today let’s do it in two paintings, Tissot and Pollock :

 

 

Picasso said that abstract art doesn’t even exist, because if you see green things on the canvas “then the subject is the color green” (which is true, right?).

If Tissot’s painting shows a thoughtful lady, Pollock’s a bit more complicated (it’s made of painting drippings). Nevertheless : you’ll watch Pollock work closer and your eyes will immediately look for something which “makes you think of this”, or “looks like that”.

Then, well, it’s called “Autumn Rhythm“, then your mind, guided by these two words, imagine leaves, or movements, I don’t know.

It’s abstraction BUT your brain wants a track, a clue. Or you watch color’s games. Or you ask yourself about the artist’s intentions

Our intelligence is made of analogies. We want to link what we see WITH what we already know.

Here’s a close-up :

 

pollock-autumn-rhythm-No-30-1950-detail

 

THREE

Musics has many forms, from Bach to MGMT, from Miles Davis to Brahms. But it’s always this :

Music is a combination of notes following time.

So : music progresses, moves forward, it goes. You follow, your brain follows. It’s linked to time. It’s like a line, right? Sing along…

Now here’s Brian Eno, who made normal music (and produced David Bowie and U2), but also what he called sonic places.

The idea is simple : to stop “following time”. So instead of having a path to walk your ears on, you have non-chronological sounds, coming and disappearing, like if you opened a door and were in a place where “sounds happen”.

Not a line anymore, but a place, an environment. Somewhere with “no time” (which is so good at times). There’s a good example with this album : Shutov Assembly :

 

In a way, the sounds of life doesn’t or rarely look like music. They look more like Eno’s music, “places” :

…a baby, the quiet wind, a cat, a bird in the distance, a passing car, the leaves of a tree in the breeze, et la respiration de l’amour…

What about Tissot and Pollock? What if this thinking lady was watching a pile of dead trees, her gaze blurred by souvenirs and melancholy, her gaze like Pollock’s Autumn, curved brown movements in the low angled light of the fall’s sun…

 

Have a nice day!

 

young-woman-in-a-boat-1870-james-jacques-tissotarnew

“Pick the Quarter Best”, a Quincy Jones pattern

Listening on the radio to old stuff you didn’t hear for years, I fell off my chair with Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson). Since, I can’t put it out of my mind.

I remember an interview (maybe exaggerated) with Quincy Jones, who produced “Bad”, who said that the team wrote, recorded and produced forty (40) songs, to choose finally 10 of them, the “ten best”, right?

I should find the interview to check numbers, right? But like they say in this John Ford’s movie, let’s print the legend.

 

That’s a tool for workers. An unusual one maybe :

“If you need great stuff, build 4 times more then pick the quarter best”

(hmm is this even English?)

An exhausting/expensive tool, right?

 

Have a great sunday!

 

Listen loud, extract : the bass (sound and holed line), the snare drum games, the voice production, the building in “double stereo stairs” (synth-strings), the up modulation for the chorus.

Annie, are you ok
Will you tell us that you’re ok
There’s a sign at the window

 

bad-10-choses-que-vous-ne-saviez-peut-etre-pas-sur-le-mythique-album-de-michael-jackson.jpg

Harmless Waves : the “Too Much Empathy” Syndrome

The ability to feel (or guess) what another person is feeling… is called Empathy.

Sometimes it’s a flaw!

Some says it’s the basis of our societies.

At another level, some say our brain works with a structure, which is Analogy. The human brain never ceases to create analogies between what we see and our experience, for example.

Analogy is probably Empathy’s structure…

Some say that the screen culture we plunge our kids in is the source of a lack of empathy. Their brain connects itself, this way : the world is a “sight”, something we watch.

 

When you have too much empathy it’s exhausting. I give you an example (you’ve probably been there) :

In a suburb train, someone was listening to shit music on their phone, the typical all-the-same robotic vocals (this horrible trend) in simple repeated phrases and mind-dumbing rhythm. Then my brain does two things : 

  1. I wanna stand up, take the phone and throw it out through the window, hoping it’ll crash in a huge DUNG. Then I’d click-tongue them the so-there way.
  2. I’m polite and then I curse them for seven generations, wondering about their lack of empathy (“Don’t you realize you’re murdering many people’s ears?”).
  3. But then I do have empathy, and wonder about them : what’s lacking in their mind? What’s happening inside you, dumbuddy? How can someone be so selfish and crappignorant? What about their childhood, their education? Are you an idiot?

 

See? It’s a mess. I have to close my brain (OK – it’s not possible), or analyze the “music” to find out how it’s made (it’s a game), or read my book hoping it’ll catch all of me (it can work), or let go and just be crossed (is “traversed” correct?) by what I decide are harmless waves (music are waves, right?).

 

IMG_4064.jpg

 

 

 

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

 

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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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