OK, so it's only the intro to a Pitchfork review, but it highlights a problem I have with the contemporary noise scene, I do:
Ignoring most of musical tenets of time and structure, this October 2000
performance harkens back to Sonic Youth's noisome early days as rogue
freelancers in no-wave icon Glenn Branca's guitar-based orchestras.
Look, the point about Branca--one of the things that makes him so good, and so pleasurable to listen to--is that he does work within pretty standard parameters for time and structure. What's weird about him is the tonality and the overall form. But there's still a drummer there beating out roughly familiar stuff. (If thrilling, but you know.) It was radical at the time because of where he was coming from: art music and jazz, where such rockisms as a steady beat were unusual. Put him in a pop context and we can thankfully overlook the difference for the quality. Sonic Youth's stuff has borne this out: coming from a similar place, they, like Branca, come up with stuff that sounds familiar, if still unusual. (If I was being unkind, I would say that the difference between SY and Branca is that Branca can write a singular thing that's fairly long that'll hold us rapt, whereas our Sonic friends need to break things up into sons. I would be kind of interested to hear what it would sound like, though, if Branca orchestrated "Teenage Riot," say, and extended and varied all the lines for more parts. Could be cool. Could suck. Anyway.)
But people who want to sound like Sonic Youth, or want to be "experimental," don't seem to get this. Because they come from a rock (often punk-rock) background, they think flowing tempo or time signature changes within a piece are experimental, whereas any high school orchestra student worth his or her salt considers it as a matter of course. And so we get these sort of frentic jabs swinging against slower stuff, fairly inelegantly, and unwilling to explore tonality in the same way Branca has. It just strikes me as odd, is all. I've never understood the refusal to pursue the ecstatic and the beautiful; experimentation seems valid to me only as far as it produces new sources of beauty. But maybe that's me.
Listening to Dre and Tupac's "California Love," I'm struck by how much the vocoder parts, done by two voices but melding a good bit because of the processing, mirror, especially in the little chorus/break from like 1:25-2:20, the heavily-processed ad lib backing vocals Beck had in a lot of his early stuff, especially the pitch-shifted ones--compare, say, the bit in "California Love" around 1:35 with "Yes they do" with whatever that song is on Mellow Gold where the high-pitched Beck goes "Oh my goodness." The difference is that Beck's processing was intentionally primative and showing its seams, whereas the "California Love" stuff starts from this place of smoothness, especially given that it's a vocoder, something pretty much invented to smooth vocals out. But they sneak in (it's subtle, this is the only time I've ever noticed it really) this more impromptu stuff while still seeming smooth. It's very nice.
(self-indulgent [more than usual] blog post ahoy.)
Brief review of the Gilmore Girls episode last night:
It was so good! OMG OMG OMG! The town meeting, Emily settling right in at the wake, "I did not kill that great man with my vagina, Rory." Etc. I thought Miss Clap started laughing a little prematurely at Asher's death, but we disagree! And that's OK.
Oh, the things I want to say to you, my little chickadees. I am reading this and have many things to say about it. I want to talk about the role of narrative in album sales. I want to talk about the mind-body divide. I want to talk about literalism. I want to talk about Blueberry Boat. I want to talk about Glenn Branca. I want to talk about the middle class. But all of it will have to wait a bit, I guess, although some will, I hope, trickle out, from time to time.
We're pursing a female vocalist here at the label I work for. She's, you know, Disney-style, Broadway, great chops. And we'd like to pitch some songs to her for the album she's (we hope) going to do.
So: what songs should I pitch? The things that spring immediately to my mind are "Mushaboom," Stephin Merritt's "I Think I Need a New Heart," and Yo La Tengo's "Tears Are In Your Eyes." We're looking for stuff that's interesting but not too weird (I get the feeling she won't like it otherwise), and preferably with a good dynamic range. What can you guys think of? Other Merritt stuff? I've skewed indie here, but all genres are welcome.
"Letter From An Occupant"? Hmm...
ADDENDUM: Tori Amos? Squeeze? The Cardigans? Nellie McKay? Other female artists in that kind of vein? (Fiona Apple?) Probably couldn't sell her on Elastica, sigh. Scissor Sisters?
Would this be a good thing to post on ILM?
Things I wish I could sell her on but know I can't: Candypants "I Want a Pony," Liz Phair, the Danielsen Famile, Kimya Dawson.
ADDENDUM 2: Writes a correspondant (the penultimate bit is probably the most relevant to y'all):
well, whenever broadway artists want to go respectible, they usually turn
toward cabaret. you can't go wrong with anything from the kurt weill
catalogue, but on the other hand she's probably no ute lemper so there
might not be much point in that. besides weill, i especially like erik
satie's cabaret songs (french language). they're faaairly commonly
recorded, but not nearly as often as weill's catalogue. and they're
FANTASTIC. you also might check out Clement Georges (Parisian Bluettes) or Walther Mehring for some gritty pre-war german cabaret music. other suggestions depend on the direction you want to go--you could pick out art songs for the lady, but again, the territory has a lot of better competition. in terms of slightly arty
pop, it might be interesting/gimmecky to have her do leonard cohen style
shit. apparently she's a huge abba and olivia newton-john fan--that might lead to inspiration. personally, i would suggest an entire album of burt bacharach tunes arranged for soprano, jazz organ, double bass, marimba and percussion. ahem.
Emphasis mine. Because damn, that's awesome. We can work with that, yeah?