Monday, November 30, 2009

New Destination: Aquarius Records

A new link has been added under the Destinations heading in the right column of this blog. The link will take you to the Aquarius Records website, where you can read up on the latest releases by bands you probably never heard of. It covers the musical world unexplored by the likes of Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Pitchfork, et al. It's an excellent destination if you're seeking musical adventures off the beaten path.

I'll add more links as I come across music websites of interest.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Know Thyself


In psychiatric circles, collecting is seen as a fairly benign disorder.
According to Alen Salerian, director of the Washington Psychiatric Center, the
need to collect anything stems from a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is the
enzyme that controls worries; with too little of the former you get too much of
the latter. “It’s a form of addiction, if you want to call it that. The current
thinking in neuroscience is that people with serotonin deficiencies are much
more driven to compulsions, including the compulsion to collect. Various life
events may disturb you and prompt that compulsion.

Those with lower levels of serotonin are believed to have higher appetites – whether for sex, alcohol, gambling or original copies of the “Scythian Suite”.

This condition is more common among creative types. “There is a very close link
between creativity and dysfunction of the nervous system – it’s a part of a mood
disorder package that artistic people have a higher chance of suffering from. As
for collecting, the line I would draw is whether a person’s life is compromised
because of this habit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Listening Session: Mountains, Choral

I've been listening to this album way too much. The simple answer as to why, on an aesthetic level, is I find most of it beautiful despite the lack of melody or harmony or rhythm or other conventional aspects associated with beautiful music. Instead the album is full of electronic drones, the plinking of a synthesizer, strummed notes on a guitar that go nowhere, and the occasional clattering of objects--glasses or bells, maybe? Hardly stuff that should grab your attention for 50 minutes. But perhaps that's what's so alluring about it. I suspect there's a psychological reason for why this album's been on my turntable as much as it has (admittedly we're on shaky ground here). Because the album lacks all musical convention, it works as pure sensation. There's nothing to filter or process here. Listening to the sculptural sounds on Choral offers an immediacy in experience that's rare these days.

In our times, we're constantly bombarded by chatter--the chatter on 24-hour cable news, the chatter on the blogosphere and the rest of the internet, the chatter of stupid sit-coms, the chatter at work that inflates the importance of work, the chatter of singers who really have nothing important to say, the chatter on the radio, the chatter of gossipers and do-gooders. This album is chatter-free. It even frees us from minor and major chord progressions that push our emotional buttons. We've been conditioned. We're constantly processing verbal and non-verbal information. This album, for me at least, just stops that mechanical processing. It's a liberating experience. Nothing is rushed on the album. There's space. There are subtle sonic shifts, like the way the light changes when a cloud passes by.

So I say, get high or inebriated or just free your mind for a while and experience the sonic wash of Choral on a stereo that can envelope you or on headphones.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fun and Serious

The following two videos were posted on Andrew Sullivan's blog from a website listing the 101 best music videos of the past decade. After viewing some of the videos on the website, I think Sullivan picked the best two. The two songs also happen to be on two of my favorite albums of the noughties (available on vinyl of course). There's also rightness in choosing videos that balance fun and seriousness. One without the other is just tiresome.

The Cash video is his cover of the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt" from his album American IV: When the Man Comes Around, which is one of the finest song collections about mortality, ever. The video keeps to that spirit, mixing in past footage of Cash and the tableaux of the elder Cash at a table of earthly delights, an image that goes back to early Christian art to remind us of the vanity of life.

The Feist video is all fun and joyousness, although the lyrics have a rueful edge to it about lost youth, although from a entirely different perspective from Cash's. Check out the incredible camera work and Feist's shiny outfit!

Recent Acquisitions: 11-15-09

Cecil Taylor, Unit Structures (Blue note, Division of Libery Records label, mono, 2nd pressing, $7). There was a time in my life when I sought new, challenging music. I'm sure at times I convinced myself I liked avant-garde stuff even though I really didn't because I felt I should. Pretentious, I know. Lately I've felt myself recede in the opposite direction, into a comfort zone of the familiar. Picked this up as a new challenge.
Mountains, Choral (Thrill Jockey, 2-LP includes two vinyl-only bonus tracks, mp3 download of album, new, $15). I hate new bands from Brooklyn. Call it anti-hipsterism. But I make an exception for this duo and possibly The Antlers, whose album I haven't found yet on vinyl. Mountains plays ambient music with a warmth that's atypical for the genre. The absence of lyrics, melody and other musical conventions is oddly relaxing and a relief in a way.
Mountains, Etching (Thrill Jockey, includes mp3 download of album, new, $15). More sound sculptures from Mountains. This is the vinyl release of a tour-only CD, limited to a 1,000 copies. I'd be surprised if they all sold.
Yo La Tengo, Electr-O-Pura (Matador, reissue on 180-gm vinyl, mp3 download of album, new, $17).
King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King (Atlantic, original pressing, $5). I hated this album without really listening to it because of the grotesque cover and, worse, a guy I couldn't stand in high school loved this album. It didn't seem conceivable that we could love the same things. And it still doesn't.
J.R. Monterose, J.R. Monterose (Blue Note, Division of United Artists Records, early 70s pressing, $5).
Duke Ellington, Piano in the Background (Columbia, 6-eye label, mono, original pressing, $3).
Keith Jarrett, Birth (Atlantic, original pressing, $2). The store clerk gave the album a long look while ringing it up. He said he's also getting into 70s jazz. I think he mistook me as someone who cared.
Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies (Warner Brothers, green label, original pressing, $8).
David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (RCA, orange label, original pressing, $15). Finally found an original pressing in good shape. This is a rare perfect album.
Ramones, It's Alive! (Sire, UK pressing, 2-LP, $10). This is a live recording from a concert in London in 1977. I believe the album was only released in the UK. It's got all the early "hits" played loud and fast. Total trash (in a good way).
Judee Sill, Judee Sill (Asylum, original pressing, $15). A milestone of the hippie, Christian folk-rock genre.
Loudon Wainwright III, Album III (Columbia, original pressing, $2). This contains LW's only hit song "Dead Skunk". As one reviewer put it, LW spent the next decade trying to prove to the record companies it was a fluke.
Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, The Tony Bennett-Bill Evans Album (Fantasy, brown label, $2). An original pressing for those times I'm too lazy to listen to my 4-sided, 45-rpm pressing of the same album.
Beeethoven, The Late String Quartets, The LaSalle Quartet (Deutsche Gramophon, 4-LP box, $10).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Simpler Times

Album Cover Gallery: The Happiest People Ever

(Hat tip for the theme: The Happiest People Ever blog)

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Music Monday (11-2-09)

Photomontage for The Antlers' "Kettering" posted by workprod on YouTube