Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Swans in Bergen

May 8, 2015

Friends have been talking about Swans for years, but I haven’t paid attention. Yesterday, however, Swans had my full attention when they played at USF Verftet in Bergen, and it was a grand time. Gira (frontman and protagonist) is the kind of guy that says ‘Let’s play the same chord for ten minutes and see if anything happens.’ And something happens, ofcourse (he ain’t stupid). Parts were magic. And loud. If you happen to be deaf, no worries; Swans made sure to feed the music directly into your spine (unless you are an invertebrate). Otherwise, the stuff is difficult to describe. Not strange, perhaps, with a young Gandalf on guitar, a long-haired Viggo Mortensen on percussion, gong, pipes, trombone, various strings, including a stringed wooden beam that looked like it once washed up on a beach in Transylvania, Francis Begbie on steel, and a hard-working and surprisingly normal-looking comp. Gira himself looks like a forgotten cousin of Mr. Sandman. Dynamic and prog-like avantgarde-drone-jam stuff with a physical presence. In other words, exactly the kind of music I would have made if I was a musician (read one of my research papers; the parallell is obvious; creativity takes many guises). Swans played for two and a half hours, they played perhaps six ‘songs’ (who’s counting, anyway?). The final number lasted more than thirty minutes, including a ten minute noise wall. When we came out, the rain had stopped.

SwansBergen

 

Top Ten

March 13, 2015

Somewhere, I got the idea to list the ten albums that have meant the most to me. So, here they are, in approximate order of appearance (to me):

KeepTheFaithBon Jovi – Keep the Faith (1992). A little bit embarrasing, perhaps, and it have not stood the test of time too well, but I still enjoyed much of it when I gave it a spin last week. Bon Jovi was my first proper favorite artist. Keep the Faith was the first album that really meant something to me and with it I discovered that an album can have more to offer than what one discovers during the first twenty listens. Keep the Faith was the soundtrack of my life for years and made me curious to explore new music. It made me take a deep-dive (to the degree that a fourteen-year-old can take a deep-dive) into the solo career of Richie Sambora.

Motorpsycho-Timothy’s-MonsterMotorpsycho – Timothy’s Monster (1994). Five of the albums on this list could have been Motorpsycho albums, but I will settle for only one and then Timothy’s Monster is the one. It was the first Motorpsycho record I went really deep into and it swept me off my feet. It contains so much, is so varied, and moves from snappy singer-songwriter stuff to pure noise within the first four tracks.  That I discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman around the same time adds to the legend this album is to me. And I still love it, I don’t know why I don’t listen to it more.

rock-actionMogwai – Rock Action (2001). I didn’t really get post rock before Rock Action. Post rock has later given me so much great listening. Mogwai has continued to amaze me and is still a favorite in the post rock genre.

 

 

 

Tonight's the NightNeil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975). I’ve listened a lot to Neil Young and his presence on this list is obvious. For this list, I am divided between Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and Tonight’s the NightTonight’s is so profound, in rock history and in the life of Neil Young. Neil had won everything and lost everything. Then he made Tonight’s the Night. It moves me.
More on Tonight’s here.

KidARadiohead – Kid A (2000). While I never understood what was so great with OK ComputerKid A made me understand what a great band Radiohead is and that they are devoted to their music in a very profound way. And it made me realize that electronic music can be really great and provided a piece to the puzzle it was to understand that great music, or art for that matter, has nothing really to do with genre or form but with heart and soul and having something to tell.

AADAPMotorpsycho – Angles and Daemons at Play (1997). Ok, I had to put two Motorpsycho records on my list. Last week, I thought I would put Blissard, but then I realized that AADAP means much more to me. Motorpsycho made this record in relief after trying to adhere to certain ideas on Blissard (failing gloriously, I might add). AADAP has everything — it is full of life and creativity — and is a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated tracks (was first released in secrecy as three EP’s and only later appeared as an album). With the Neil Youngish idea to put different versions of the same track on the same album (Sideway Spiral), the noise wall Heartattack Mac back-to-back with the pop tune Pills, Powders + Passion Plays, a part played on saw(!), a piano ballad (Stalemate), the mythical Un Chien d’espace, and the wild closer Timothy’s Monster, which nods both to Sun Ra, as does the album title, and their own master piece and namesake album, it has everything. Oddly enough, my impression of it is that it is a relatively hard and heavy album, but when I listen to it I realize that mellow parts abound and may well make up the lion’s share of it. In addition, I got it’s texture mixed up with the texture of Erik Fosnes Hansen’s novel Beretninger om Beskyttelse, and this mix makes both more vivid.

EliteFireside – Elite (2000). The reviews on Firesideometer [which seems to be down, I hope it gets back up, great site] says everything I have to say about this record, and says it better. The title track is just epic,  as is the closer. But what makes the album legendary are not it’s tracks but everything inbetween (if that makes little sense, check it out, discover and understand). Fireside was hard core punk that turned psycho and I bet their fans had a hard time getting to grips with Elite. So did the band, I guess, they poured everything they had into it and ran dry. They never return to the same heights later.

TakkSigur Rós – Takk… (2005). My favorite Sigur Rós album and post rock at it’s best. A mind saver. Cannot be explained, needs to be experienced.

 

 

 

ShapeOfJazzOrnette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959). I have listened a lot to jazz music in my life, but few jazz-albums makes it to this list. Shape, however, finally made me appreciate and understand free jazz, both as an idea and as a mean of expression. Miles’s In a Silent Way would have been the next jazz record if I could make ten last longer.

 


frances-the-muteThe Mars Volta – Frances the Mute (2005). 
Frances was, and is, my gateway into, and is perhaps also the crown jewel of, the world of the Mars Volta. The way leads further to At the Drive-In, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Life Coach, and the full force of progressive and experimental music at it’s best.

Møster!

September 20, 2014

Møster! at Bergen Jazzforum

Å gå på konsert med Møster! kan minne litt om ekstremsport; det innvolverer adrenalin, det går stort sett bra, men ein viss risiko er der. No skal ikkje eg skryte av å ha vore på allverdens mange Møster!-konsertar, men eg har sett Møster i diverse konstellasjonar, og på årets Vossa Jazz såg eg kanskje 20 minutt av konserten der. Konserten på Bergen Jazzforum i går var sleppfest for plata Inner Earth, og det var kanskje ikkje heilt uventa at dei via mesteparten av konserten til denne.

Åpningslåten Descending into this crater åpner nokså roleg, der det verkar som om bandet i fyrste omgang sonderer terrenget. Til tider verker det som om dei går litt vill og ikkje heilt veit kvar dei er og kva dei vil. Men dei finn ut av det, dei finn i alle fall kvarandre i det musikalske landskapet, og etterkvart lyfter liksom musikken seg frå terrenget som ein sandstorm i ørkenen. Som sandstormen er det kaotisk og brutalt, men ein sandstorm kan visst vera vakker på avstand, og det er òg musikken.

Eit stykke ut i andrelåten Tearatorn verker det som Snah og Kapstad (kompisar frå Motorpsycho) krangler om rytmen i musikken; Snah herjer i veg på noko som minner om ein ukjent Deep Purple-låt frå syttitalet mens Kapstad, ja, det er ikkje alltid greit å vite kva han driv med, men det er i alle fall noko anna. Eilertsen på bass speler frenetisk for å halde tritt med begge. Møster sjølv reagerer på det heile med å ta luren ut av kjeften og sette seg ned. Det er som om resten av bandet har heime-aleine-fest mens Møster kviler, og som slike festar flest er det moro, men det går vel ikkje akkurat bra. Men på reint magisk vis får dei orden på sakene før far er tilbake, Kapstad lar den hersens hi-hat’en kvile ei stund og Møster trer inn att i musikken til eit øyredøvande cresendo.

Etter å ha avslutta med ein drivande Underworld Risk, vert dei klappa tilbake for å spele det Møster kallar hit’en frå forrige plate, låten Ransom Bird. Det er noko med denne låten som, særleg i går kanskje, minner meg om åpningssporet på The Shape of Jazz to Come av Ornette Coleman. Møster sjølv har vel sagt at Coltrane har vore viktig for han, men eg vil tru han òg har vore innom Coleman.

Tidlegare var Storløkken ein del av Møster!, men vart i fjor erstatta av Snah. I eit intervju sa Møster at med Snah i bandet vart det heile meir prog. Det vesle eg såg på Voss før i år og det eg har høyrt på den forrige plata har definetivt vore veldig prog, men i går kveld synes eg Snah var mindre dominerande og uttrykket bar mindre preg av prog’en. Konserten i går var likevel ein fartsfyllt og adrenaline-aktiv affære, litt som ekstremsport. Veldig bra, men ikkje utan risiko.

On Tonight’s the Night

August 1, 2014

Tonight, I will go and see Neil Young & Crazy Horse in Bergen. It is the first, and probably last, time I see Neil Young together with Crazy Horse. A strange horse that has been limping its entire life but somehow still is around. But the cowboy riding it is no less strange.

Anyway, to celebrate the event (Neil Young is one of my absolute favorite artists), I thought I pull out one of my favorite passages from Jimmy McDonough’s Neil Young biography Shakey. The passage concerns the album Tonight’s the Night, ironically enough not a Crazy Horse record, but in my view, Neil Young is Neil Young, no matter who he plays with.

The music recorded at [Studio Instrument Rentals, LA] is some of the top-drawer, big-time, hot-shit greatest rock and roll ever made. You could write a book on the bit of piano that opens Tonight’s the Night. Just an offhand, uncertain tinkling of the ivories, but so ominous, so full of dread. It sets the tone for the onslaught to come—out-of-tune singing, bum notes, mike hits and some of the best, most beautiful noise ever.

These are dispatches from the other side—sublime, stream-of-consciousness poetryset to drunken Jimmy Reed rhythms; “Speakin’ Out” is half Kahlil Gibran, half Fats Domino. “Oh tell me where the answer lies / Is it in the notebook behind you eyes?” croons Young, propelled by his chunky honky tonk piano and Lofgren’s quicksilver blues guitar. “All right, Nils, play it!”—one of the only times Young will ever invite a musician to solo on record.

The unearthly “World on a String” sports lyrics that evoke all sorts of thoughts on success, purpose and mortality, and one couplet in particular could be tattooed on Young’s heart: “It’s just a game you see me play / Only real in the way that I feel from day to day.” The doomed, resigned opening rumble of guitar tells you no happy face came up with this riff.

In the sly, soulful “Roll Another Number”—written on the spot in the studio—a well-oiled Young fumbled with the key to his ignition, then tells us he’s “a million miles away from that helicopter day” of Woodstock and goes on to mourn those who didn’t go the distance (“Though my feet aren’t on the ground / I been standin’ on the sound / Of some openhearted people goin’ down”). At once funny and profound, the music is exquisite—loose, liquid and just short of falling apart.

Perhaps the most luminous playing is by Ben Keith, whose otherworldy steel lends just the right lonesome-prairie feel to songs like “Albuquerque.” “I couldn’t belive all that weird slide in Tonight’s the Night,” said Lofgren. “All those shades of melancholy that were in us…it’s almost Middle-Eastern, like ‘Ben Keith Goes to East Cairo.’ ”

“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn,” Charlie Parker once proclaimed. Young was in the thick of it. Surrounded by friends, his subconscious unhinged, he had tuned in to the cosmos. Halfway through “Mellow My Mind,” Young’s ravaged voice cracks with emotion. “I still get chills when it gets to that fuckin’ note,” said Molina. “It’s so real. I’ll tell ya, man, Neil was right there with us. He was wide open.” [Pp. 416-417, First Anchor Books ed. 2003].

Tonight's the Night

Neil Young himself:

See, Tonight’s the Night was the closest to art that I’ve come. But you really have to be detached. The whole thing was just me and it. You can’t struggle to get there. It’s just gotta happen—a set of circumstances that make those things take place, and if the circumstances ever come together for me again to do something like that, I’ll do it [p. 433].

McDonough describes the feeling:

You know how it is when you’ve been up too long, the apartment’s trashed, everything is silent, the sun’s about to come up and you’re feeling like some germ stuck to a big cold rock hurtling through space—and somehow you don’t mind? Here is a record that induces that state automatically [pp. 433-434].

Sigur Ros at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco

April 19, 2013

Yesterday, I finally got to see Sigur Ros live. I have been listening quite carefully to them for years, but have never found the occation to see them live before. They played the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in downtown San Francisco. The Bill Graham is a pretty large venue with room for 7000 souls. It was sold out.

While it hurts a little to say it, the gig was somewhat underwhelming. First of all, they started by playing the first two-three songs behind a curtain. The curtain was used for projections, with the band barely visible. Now, the music is what matters of course, but part of the live experience is the personal feel. The curtain did not feel very personal. And while I’m sure the projections were great, I have long since disliked the excessive use of projections and video art on live music concerts. In my view, it distracts from the music most of the time. Nuvel. Another thing is that they could perfectly well have used a more transparent curtain. Projections would have worked just as fine; perhaps not the part where the lead singer (Jonsi) stood infront of a spotlight playing his guitar with a bow, I would not mind.

Things got more interesting once the curtain dropped. It turned out they were a bunch of people on stage. Four main members and perhaps six more on various horns and strings. The benefit of such a large ensemble is that one has much more depth and, in the case of Sigur Ros, it could be essential to pull off certain parts of their music that sometimes have many, many layers. (Their live album Inni demonstrates, however, that they work very well without orchestral backup.) The drawback is that the more people are involved, more stuff can go wrong. Wrong is perhaps strong (although they did mess up a couple of times; whether they were genuine fuckups or a technical errors, I do not know), but they were never really tight. They never nailed it. In periods, if felt like they did not even try. The beat on Popplagid was everywhere. Much of the music Sigur Ros make is pure magic, but their live performance last night was never really magic. Jonsi demonstrated a magic voice, but that was it. The crescendos was not as intense and sound-drenched as they should have been. The strings were too low. The guitar-bow thing was too low. Perhaps they had their heads elsewhere (Perhaps I had?) Perhaps they were exhausted after a long tour.

After all my whining, I should say I did enjoyt the concert. Sigur Ros makes really great music, and a slightly uninspired and cluttered performance cannot take the greatness away. Just too bad it did not really work out, because I think it could have been a blast if everything clicked and they’d just let go.

Sigur Ros in San Francisco, 2013

UPDATE: Walked by a homeless singing on the street the other day. Realized there is always some magic present when someone sings their heart out. Sigur Ros really did that, sing their heart out and created magic, I just missed it.

 

Hending på Bergen Kjøtt

October 31, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Action Jazz gig at Bergen Kjøtt, an old meat factory in Skuteviken in Bergen. I was pretty amazed and wrote a short review of the experience. I even sent it to a newspaper, but I haven’t heard back from them. I post it here instead (noteably in Norwegian).

Møster er tilsynelatande ein hyggeleg fyr der han inviterer til konsert i ei gamal kjøttkvern. Men han lagar tidvis uhyggeleg musikk. Noko av det uhyggelige ligg i det abstrakte. Abstrakt er dog i seg sjølv ikkje så skummelt, så uhygga må Møster ta ansvar for. Men la oss ta det heile frå toppen. Konserten opnar i fint men monotont driv, trygt og koselig, og kanskje litt kjedelig. Publikum vert lokka med og dyssa i søvn samtidig. Lite skjer, og snart glepp konsentrasjonen. Men Møster veit råd. Tipper han har oss akkurat der han vil ha oss. Sløva ned, lagleg til for hogg. Møster tek det ned, kompet fylgjer lydig med. (Men for eit komp! Zanussi og Johansen kompagnerer som om dei har ei felles sjel, ein felles tanke. Dei ligg så tett i kvarandre at det er vanskeleg å skilje dei frå kvarandre. Slik monstra skuggar dei mørkeredde skuggar dei Møster, alltid der men utan synleg anstrenging. Dei fylgjer han gjennom tjukk lyd og tynn lyd, musikk og musakk.) Så skjer det noko. Møster byter instrument og er ikkje til å kjenna att. Lyden er skingrande og fientleg. Uhygga brer seg. Snart fører han oss inn i eit ugjestmildt landskap. Underlege formasjonar som sit dårleg i øyra hastar forbi. Møster sit på golvet. Blandar elektronikk og saksofon, roter omkring. Kompet snublar rundt i blinde. Klikk, klakk. Spastiske, tilsynelatande tilfeldige strukturar oppstår og forsvinn. Bandet baksar i frijazzens forbannelse, i ei slags kreativ avgrunn. Alt er lov. Ingenting er feil, men lite føles rett. Publikum sit musestille. Vågar ikkje anna. Leiter Møster etter noko, er han på jakt? Ein ny lyd, ein ny frase? Framleis på golvet. Dødningehovud med skyggelue på t-skjorta. Faen. Prøver han likevel å fortelje oss noko? Er han på veg ein stad? Ber den usamanhengande hengemyra han har forvilla seg inn i på eit bodskap? Eit turbulent indre? Kaoset som herskar der ute? Er det misforstått å sjå etter meining, søkje å forstå? Kva kan ein forventa? Skal ein berre vera tilstades i augneblinken, sluka det heile rått? Med det heile litt på avstand (omtrent ei mil eller så) oppstår ein idé. Møster viser oss smerte på eit vis verken ord eller bilete kan. Det vert fysisk. Ein på rada framføre meg stikk tommlane i øyra. Men Møster veit atter råd. Han har ikkje gått seg vill og er ikkje fortapt. Med eit endrar dynamikken seg, ting fell på plass. Møster banar seg veg ut av skuggane, det er som å komme opp i ljoset. Publikum kan trekke pusten. Eit konstruktivt driv feier over scenen. Bandet virkar letta, som om dei veit at dei var på djupt vatn men redda seg i land, igjen. Det er gjerne det som er greia. Kor langt ut i det ukjente kan dei gå men likevel finne tilbake til det gjenkjennelige landskapet med dei oppgåtte stiane? Eg spør meg Øver dei på dette? Er det mørke, ugjestmilde landskapet kjente trakter for bandet? Dei har nok vore på tur før, men kjenner dei seg att? Har dei landemerker å gå etter? For ei enkel sjel verkar det tilsynelatande tilfeldige landskapet å vera både uoversikteleg og uendeleg variert. Ei villmark det er umogleg å kartleggje. Musikken er som ei mangedimensjonal masse, og Møster ynskjer tilsynelatande å vri og vende på kvar vesle bit. Denne tilfeldige, brå trakteringa er forøvrig eit vanleg fenomen i dagens musikk og har vore det lenge. Det må gjerne forståast som uforsking av momentan inspirasjon, kun filtrert gjennom den teknikken som sit i ryggmargen. Eit uttrykk for at den funderte inspirasjonen som kjem til uttrykk i komponerte stykker ikkje alltid er å føretrekke. All inspirasjon er gjerne i utgangspunktet momentan, og mykje av det momentane misser kanskje sin umiddelbare glans så fort ein byrjar å reflektere? Brått verkar det ikkje nødvendigvis som ein god idé å skrive dette. Skrivinga mi er uansett så langsam at refleksjonen set sitt preg. Eg spør meg Kan skriving vera momentan? Den kan nok det, men kanskje ikkje for meg. (Kva er litteraturens svar på frijazz? Har det noko verdi? Og har eg sjølv gått vill? Kvar vart det av Møster?)

Resten av kvelden er Møster og bandet meir lystig i lynne, langt mindre smerte å føle på. Men den brå, abstrakte og stakato ikkje-strukturen ligg ofte nær. Møster bryt tidvis av seg sjølv, tek opp neste idé før den forrige er ferdig tenkt. Blandar lyd og ulyd. Han kan når han vil, åh, kva han kan! Det ironiske med heile opptrinnet på Bergen Kjøtt er at om ekspedisjonen til Møster ut i det ukjente bar preg av smerte, så viste Qvenlid tidlegare på kvelden kor vakker og fascinerande dekonstruert, elektronisk støy og urytme kan vera. Og kor entusiastisk ein kan gå tilverks, hoppande, dansande og vibrerande. Solokonserten til Qvenlid var langt meir kaotisk, ustrukturert og abstrakt enn det Møster held på med. Men Qvenlid ber ikkje med seg noko smertefullt bodskap. Ingen uhygge å spore. Heller intens glede og tilstadeværing, der han konstant avbryt seg sjølv, der neste idé alltid er den beste. Qvenlid tar publikum med på ei reise over dei høgaste toppar, ned i dei djupaste juv, over botnlause avgrunnar, gjennom mørke og ljos. Som med Møster vert det fysisk. Enkelte augneblink gir frysningar over heile kroppen, og enkelte vibrasjonar nærmast lyfter publikum frå tribuna.

Konklusjonen er at hendingar, især jazz-hendingar (på utanlandsk: Action Jazz) på Bergen Kjøtt, er verdt å få med seg. Om ein berre vil nyta augneblinken, få noko å tygga på inn i natta, eller treng ein god grunn til å ta seg ein øl. Action Jazz arrangerer ein serie konsertar på Bergen Kjøtt framover.

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Story Water by Gunhild Seim at Vossa Jazz 2012

March 31, 2012

Neil Gaiman, the famous writer, once told a story about his early teens when he’d decided he wanted to be a writer. Then he read Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Now, he wanted to be a writer and the book he wanted to write, was Lord of the Rings. Only problem, of course, it was already written. To many, this obstacle would seem unsurmountable. To Gaiman, it was a minor challenge. He figured out, if he just held onto the book and then traveled into a parallel universe where Lord of the Rings was not written, he could publish it there in his own name. A brilliant solution, of course, to a rather delicate problem, I’d say.

What has all this to do with anything, not the least Story Water by Gunhild Seim at Vossa Jazz 2012? To begin with, I’m obviously at Vossa Jazz 2012, and yesterday I attended when Gunhild Seim and her group performed their piece called Story Water. The piece was commissioned for the festival, and the performance last night was, I presume, the debut. And it was great. Really jawdropping great. What struck me, when I sat there, was that if I was going to write a piece of music, I would want it to be Story Water. Now, all I need are some music-writing ambitions and a parallel universe where Story Water has yet to surface. (Great things always do.)

 

Artist Cloud

March 30, 2012

I tried to add an artist cloud to the side bar, but the image was too wide. I think the cloud looks so cool, I’m posting it here instead. It shows what artists I’ve scrobbled to last.fm for the last 3 months. The artist cloud is generated by a last.fm tool written by shoxrocks. Obviously, I have listened a lot to Susanne Sundfør recently, but I think the image will update itself, so unless I keep listening to Sundfør, this sentence does won’t make sense in the future. Over on my last.fm profile, there is an equally cool tag cloud which shows what type of music I’ve been listening to recently.

Vijay Iyer: A Scientific Musician

March 23, 2012

Perhaps it is about time to kick this old blog back to life. I will start with a post about Vijay Iyer. I came across an interview with him, of all places, in Nature (483, p. 157). Vijay Iyer is a jazz pianist who plays a kind of progressive jazz, very interesting stuff although not entirely my cup of tea. It is nice, but not very groovy. What is extraordinary about Iyer is that he has a scientific background which he applies to his music. He started out in physics, but took a PhD in music perception and cognition. In his dissertation, he studied the perception of rhythm. From the Nature-interview:

Why focus on rhythm?
At the primal level, music is rhythm first, the sound of bodies in synchronous action. That is why there is a pulse in music. Rhythm perception is an imagined movement in the motor centres of the brain. Our skill for coordinating our actions is the real foundation of music, and possibly of civilization.

I have listened to Iyer and his trio quite a bit the last couple of days. Rhythm, and the seeming lack thereof, is an important part of Iyer’s music. What he does with the rhythm on Mystic Brew is simply amazing. No doubt, he is a highly skilled musician. It is also fascinating how he applies scientific ideas to his music in a very direct way.

How do you use scientific ideas in your music?
Some composers might write a string quartet ‘about’ string theory, but that is just inspiration, it is not really discovery. I’m more of an experimentalist. There is an auditory illusion of a constantly ascending pitch, known as Shepard tones: the musical equivalent of M. C. Escher’s infinite staircase. As the pitch goes up, the distribution of harmonics shifts down, and your ear can’t find the place where it doubles back on itself. I used this illusion in a string quartet by asking the players to perform a synchronized glissando in parallel octaves and imposing a bell curve on their amplitudes. It worked. After that, I asked, can we do this with tempo? At the end of the title track on Historicity, there is a rhythm that constantly decelerates. On Accelerando, there is a piece giving the illusion of constant acceleration, of a tempo that flexes.

What is the future of music?
People walk around with headphones on, thinking of music as a solitary, personalized pursuit. But it has connected us by synchronizing our actions throughout human history. Because we are so engrossed in the technical aspects, it is easy for scientists, and even for musicians, to forget that the effects of music are primarily emotional. That is why people keep it in their lives.

The emotional side of music is what makes it interesting, and why mainstream, popular music seldom has much appeal to anyone with more than a superficial interest.

Neil Young on Reviews

October 25, 2009

I’m still(!) reading Shakey; on page 669 I found a great quote from Neil Young:

Fuck reviews. Reviews don’t really matter. You can’t believe ’em when they fuckin’ praise you, and you can’t believe them when they criticize you. Because if I believe them now [after Harvest Moon, which got good reviews], that means I should’ve believed them the other times and we know that they’re wrong all the fuckin’ time.

Motorpsycho in Concert: 20th Anniversary Tour

October 21, 2009

Alright, I’m back in Norway and Bergen. On Saturday, I attended Motorpsycho’s concert at Verftet in Bergen. Motorpsycho is out on their 20th Anniversary Tour through Norway and Europe. For reasons unclear, I was totally unaware that MP played Bergen on Saturday. A good friend, however, got in touch to confirm I was going! Strike of luck.

It was a fantastic concert. The definite highpoint was the last encore ‘The Golden Core.’ MP hasn’t played the song in almost 10 years, I think (partial evidence from the MP setlist archive; they did play it the night before in Stavanger, however). I’ve seen Motorpsycho live a number of times through the years, and ‘The Golden Core’ was the first song on my list of songs I’d like to see them play. Other highlights were a dynamic ‘Greener,’ the old and dear ‘Taifun,’ and an incredible ‘Superstooge.’ Snah is just an amazing guitarist. The outro of ‘The Alchemyst’ and the audience-sung chorus on ‘You Lied’ also gave me the chills. It was a fantastic way to get back to Bergen, spending the day with the family and the night with a high-powered Motorpsycho!

Motorpsycho, Bergen 2009

Motorpsycho, Bergen 2009; I'm in there somewhere.

Sun Ra’s Other Worlds

August 31, 2009

On a rare occasion a couple of nights ago, I took the bus home at a late hour. Sufficently late, taking the bus to my place includes a 20 mins walk from the bus stop. Walking through the night, under a clear sky (a rare occasion it was, indeed) I listened to Sun Ra’s magnificent Lanquidity. I’ve appreciated Lanquidity for a while, particularly the title track. The other night, however, I discovered a couple of new aspects of it.

First, I was struck by the power the contrast between the baritone & alto saxophones generates (uh, I’m no expert by the way, that may well be a tenor sax) on Twin Stars of Thence. I was soon in for more powerful effects.

Second, I could readily imagine someone listening to the last track, There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of), with its driving rythm section, layers of flutes, percussion and pianos which all waves in and out of the sound picture, and the repeated whispering message There are other worlds they have not told you of … wish to speak to you, particularly if under the influence of some substance, to start to communicate with themself (who else, I mean, seriously, who else) on some level, fulfilling the music. Sun Ra conjures an illusion of chaos, and the surprising outro serves as an intro to the ‘other worlds.’ When silence finally settles, a void opens, and an influenced, confused mind may fill it with whatever otherwordly stuff.

Keep an open mind. Go listen.

Les Paul Dead

August 18, 2009

Les Paul, the ‘father of the electric guitar’ and the man behind one of rock and roll’s most popular guitar, the Gibson Les Paul, has died. From the Rolling Stone:

Les Paul, one of the most revered guitarists in history and the father of the electric guitar, passed away last night, August 12th at the age of 94. Paul’s manager confirmed to Rolling Stone that cause of death was respiratory failure, and a statement from Gibson indicates Paul was suffering from severe pneumonia and died at a hospital in White Plains, New York.

Almost every professional guitar player in rock and roll seem to own a Les Paul. Neil Young has a really special one, called Old Black:

Cradled in a stand in front of the amps is the fuse for the dynamite, Young’s trademark ax – Old Black, a ’53 Gold Top Les Paul some knothead daubed with black paint eons ago. Old Black’s features include a Bigsby wang bar, which pulls strings and bends notes, and a Firebird pickup so sensitive you can talk through it. It’s a demonic instrument. “Old Black doesn’t sound like any other guitar,” said [Larry] Cragg [Young’s guitar technician], shaking his head.

For Cragg, Old Black is a nightmare. Young won’t permit the ancient frets to be changed, likes his strings old and used, and the Bigsby causes the guitar to go out of tune constantly. “At sound check, everything will work great. Neil picks up the guitar, and for some reason that’s when things go wrong” [p. 8 in Shakey, Jimmy McDonough’s Neil Young biography].

More about Old Black in McDonough’s Shakey:

Young came to [sit in on a gig with the Rockets, the earlier band of the members of Neil’s legendary back up band Crazy Horse] armed with the weapons that have become crucial elements of his rock and roll sound: Old Black, a 1953 Gibson Les Paul, plugged into a 1959 Fender Deluxe. The guitar came from Jim Messina, who found the instrument’s monstrous sound uncontrollable. “Neil’s the kind of guy that if there’s an old scraggly dog walkin’ down the street, he’d see somethin’ in that dog and take it home. That’s kind of like the Les Paul – I liked the way it looked, but it was just terrible. It sounded like hell. Neil loved it,” said Messina.

Young bought the Deluxe for approximately fifty bucks in 1967. As Young told writer Jas Obrecht, he “took it home, plugged in this Gretsch guitar and immediately the entire room started to vibrate….I went, ‘Holy shit!’ I turned it halfway down before it stopped feeding back.” The Les Paul/Deluxe combo, which remains the cornerstone of his sound, would make its thunderous debut in Young’s music on his very first record with Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere [p. 298].

Old Black

David Briggs on How to Make Records

August 11, 2009

In the Neil Young biography Shakey, written by Jimmy McDonough, there’s a long quote from David Briggs on how to make records, and a little bit about what he thought of Neil Young:

I can teach you everything I know in an hour. Everything. That’s how simple it is to make records. Nowadays, buddy, the technician is in control of the medium. They try to make out like it’s black magic, or flyin’ a spaceship. I can teach anybody on this planet how to fly the spaceship. If you look at the modern console, there’ll be thirty knobs – high frequency, low frequency, midfrequency, all notched in little tiny, tiny, teeny tiny degrees – and it’s all bullshit. All this stuff doesn’t matter, and you can’t be intimidated. You just ignore it – all of it.

I walk into studios with the biggest console known to mankind, and I ask for the schematic and say, “Can you patch from here to here and eliminate the ENTIRE board?” I just run it right into the tape machines. All the modern consoles, they’re all made by hacks, they’re not worth a shit, they sound terrible. None of it touches the old tube stuff – like the green board from Heider’s. It has two tone controls – high end, low end and a pan knob – and that’s it. I had great good fortune when I was a kid and started makin’ records. I made ‘em at Wally Heider’s, Gold Star, so all the people that taught me were Frank Dimidio, Dave Gold, Stan Ross, Dean Jensen – these guys were the geniuses of the music business, still are.

They taught me more about sound and how sound is made and the principles of doing it, and it’s unshakably correct what they said to me: You  get a great sound at the source. Put the correct mike in front of the source, get it to the tape the shortest possible route – that’s how you get a great sound. That’s how you do it. All other ways are work. The biggest moment of my life – the one I haven’t been able to get past every, really – is 1961, when I first got to L.A. I got invited to Radio Recorders to see Ray Charles, and I walk into the studio, and Ray’s playin’ all the piano parts with his left hand, reading a braille score with his right hand, singing the vocal live while a full orchestra played behind him. So I sat there and I watched. And I went, “This is how records are made. Put everybody in the fuckin’ room and off we go.” In those days everybody knew they had to go in, get their dick hard at the same time and deliver. And three hours later they walked out the fuckin’ door with a record in their pocket, man.

Of course, in those days they didn’t have eight- , sixteen- , twenty-four- , forty-eight- , sixty-four-track, ad nauseum, to fuck people up, and that is what fucked up the recording business and the musicians of today, by the way – fucked ‘em all up to where they’ll never be the same, in my opinion. People realized they could do their part…later. Play their part and fix it later. And with rock and roll, the more you think, the more you stink.

It’s very easy for people to forget what rock and roll really is. Look man, I’m forty-seven years old, and I grew up in Wyoming, and I stole cars and drove five hundred miles to watch Little Richard, and I wanna tell you somethin’ – when I saw this nigger come out in a gold suit, fuckin’ hair flyin’, and leap up onstage and come down on his piano bangin’ and goin’ fuckin’ nuts in Salt Lake City, I went, “Hey man, I wanna be like him. This is what I want.” Even today he’s a scary dude. He’s the real thing. Rock and roll is not sedate, not safe, has truly nothin’ to do with money or anything. It’s like wind, rain fire – it’s elemental. Fourteen-year-old kids, they don’t think, they feel. Rock and roll is fire, man, FIRE. It’s the attitude. It’s thumbing you nose at the world.

It’s a load. It’s such a load that it burns people out after a few years. Even the best of ‘em burn out. People get old – they forget what it’s like to be a kid, they’re responsible, they’re this and they’re that…. You can’t have it both ways. You’re a rock and roller. Or you’re not.

I wanna tell you something’: Neil’s never been insecure about anything in his fuckin’ life. First among equals is Neil Young, and it’s always been that way. When Neil’s got his ax in hand, it’s like the Hulk. His aura becomes solid – he becomes eight feet tall, six feet wide. The only guy other than John Lennon who can actually go from folk to country to full orchestra. The only guy. I think when it’s all written down, he will unquestionably stand in the top five that ever made rock and roll [pp. 263 – 264].

Motorpsycho’s New Record Out in August

July 17, 2009

My favourite band Motorpsycho celebrates 20 years as a band with the release of Child of the Future! Cross-post from g35 (the band’s old fan e-mail list):

From Rune Grammofon:

”Child Of The Future” consist of six trademark Motorpsycho high energy rockers recorded by Steve Albini in his Chicago studio and bearing the classic hallmarks of great riffs, that driving tractor bass and some truly inspired guitar work. The slightly Zeppelin-esque ”The Waiting Game” is more acoustic and recorded at home. Motorpsycho, and indeed Rune Grammofon, have always been fans of music dating back to the late 60s and the 70s, also when it comes to production values and presentation. It should not come as a shock to anyone, especially not to the fans, that they have chosen to release this album on vinyl only, at least for the time being. Seeing as it is an analogue recording engineered by Steve Albini it only felt natural to release it in the format that many still consider to be the ultimate sound carrier. This sentiment also goes for the possibilities of the cover format, something Kim Hiorthøy has taken advantage of when doing this sleeve. The main sleeve has two die-cuts and has print on the inside, there is a thick colour inner sleeve and there is an amazing 60×60 poster with colour print on both sides. And before we forget, the vinyl itself is 180g and glorious white. Simply a great package and a great way to celebrate 20 years as a band.

Tracklisting:
The Ozzylot (Hidden In A Girl)
Riding The Tiger
Whole Lotta Diana
Cornucopia (…Or Satan, Uh… Something)
Mr. Victim
The Waiting Game
Child Of The Future

http://www.runegrammofon.com/artists/motorpsycho/rlp-2088—motorpsycho_-child-of-the-future-_lp_

Gotta love those song track titles.

Child of the Future