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Monday, May 16, 2005
Abby's got a great find here with the Max Tundra remix of "Decent Days and Nights." It's very interesting. Partially this is because it highlights a side of Max Tundra that was present but not very obvious on Mastered By Guy at the Exchange--there's no beat for 3/4 of the song, and the trademark Max Tundra rapid-fire clean beat only comes in for about two bars at the very end. In the absence of drums and his distinctive cut-ups, we're allowed to appreciate the kind of repetition and build he also clearly loves, a repetition less drawn from dance and more from Reich, making it a sort of parallel track to Sufjan Stevens, which may or may not be a fruitful comparison. The Tundra technique here is great because the piano loop he introduces at the beginning and replays, as far as I can tell, through much of the song, is absolutely random and tuneless, but the more things he puts on top, the clearer the music becomes, which is the exact opposite of what usually happens when you layer stuff. As Abby points out, when that string part comes in, the clarity it imparts on everything else going on is breathtaking, which in a way is no different from the traditional rock technique of putting a chord-shifting bassline under a repetative guitar riff, thereby giving it the illusion of variation. But it's also quite different because that part goes away very quickly, and brings back in the xylophone and off-beat organ hits that were only accompaniment before, leaving only an aural memory of the progression. Then the drums come in, and all of a sudden what had been a kind of minimalist composition transitions to a full-blown orchestral ballad, almost "November Rain" in its bombast. It backs off from this, but the fact that he was able to get it to go there in the first place is just spectacular.