Monday, December 31, 2012

"Take what you want"

Sun Mantra - Sun Mantra
Mirror Universe #10

Daniel Day-Lewis blessed us with this quote: "I am more greatly moved by people who struggle to express themselves. Maybe it's a middle-class British hang-up, but I prefer the abstract concept of incoherence in the face of great feeling to beautiful, full sentences that convey little emotion."

I considered Day-Lewis's words while listening to Sun Mantra, the project of Matt Ojala. Because through a twin guitar attack, through robust riffery and serpentine melodies, through bass drum thundery and the eardrum-rattling crash cymbals came the voice of Ojala—a voice struggling to be heard over the obnoxiously delightful din, a voice that during one refreshing moment of clarity declared, "Take what you want."

So I did.

What I want is what I want

Tapeworms Eat Bookworms - Space Burial
Mirror Universe #14

You know what I want out of ambient music? I want it spaced-out and tripped-up. I don't want it to merely sound "celestial" or "astral"; I want it to mimic the sound the earth makes when its velvety, puffy exterior rubs against the ebon, prickly surface of the cosmos. I want the music to sound like it does on Tapeworms Eat Bookworms' "Valkommen," which reminds me of a public television special where stock footage of the universe is accompanied by dialogue that goes something like, "The Sun reaches the tip of the red giant branch, achieving its maximum radius of 256 times the present day value. In the process, Mercury, Venus, and possibly Earth are destroyed. During these times, it is possible that Saturn's moon Titan could achieve surface temperatures necessary to support life."

I also want ambient music to sound terrestrial, like "Rebuilding," where the strummed acoustic guitar and gleaming synthesizers evoke images of indolent teenagers lying on a hillside, teenagers who laugh at how phallic the clouds look before they roll down a hill and get fresh grass in their hair, and then rest by lying on their stomachs and propping themselves up on their elbows.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brown-nosing agendas

Kevin Greenspon - Bracing
Bridgetown #80

Releases from Kevin Greenspon's Bridgetown Records are always done with such loving care. This flattering praise is not the work of a brown-nosing agenda-pusher simply because there's no legitimate reward to be garnered when the entity conducting the brown-nosing is a cassette blog and the entity being brown-nosed is a cassette label. All that being said, Bracing comes with a quality card stock insert complete with enduring, vibrant images, like a photo of a topless woman gorgeously silhouetted against a window. Should I ever allow my heart to be blackened and start up a cassette label, this is the kind of expressive and meticulously detailed packaging I would aspire to emulate.

And oh yeah, there's music, too. "Petty Dream" and "Bracing" are my choice tracks. Spellbinding guitar melodies unfurl over layers of prickly noise; it's ambient music for the background or the foreground. A blend of the satisfying with the unpleasant. You know, like everyday life. Like the time you bombed that job interview with that big company in the city and on the trudge back to your automobile, you went by the waterfront and when you saw how the blue of the ocean accented the blue of the sky, and the way the perched gulls on the pier arranged themselves in such a way that it spelled out the word "donut" it tickled your soul right down to its very core.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Joyful, vibrant feelings of detachment

Mr. Jenkins - In Transit/Sleep
Mirror Universe #28

I'm reading Robert Finch's The Iambics of Newfoundland and during one passage the author describes his visits to the isolated outports on the island's southwest coast, and the effect the extreme remoteness has on both visitors and natives. Finch writes about mooring near White Bear Bay and how his current location was "farther than I have ever been from any inhabited place on this continent."

Listening to Mr. Jenkins' In Transit/Sleep—the former is an EP cut in 2011, while the latter is a new release—I considered these "inhabited places" and the seclusion Finch encountered, and how the strain of 8-bit electronica created by South Carolina's Mr. Jenkins' (first name: Nick) carts the listener to uninhabited places. There are no vocals, no "live" instruments, no warmth and soul. This is music that is largely absent of any qualities that suggest it was produced by humans. I began to speculate if Mr. Jenkins' inspiration for this work were vibrant feelings of detachment—joyful, vibrant feelings of detachment because many of the tracks are rather up-tempo and because it's occasionally liberating to not be so hopelessly entangled with others and because learning about yourself is fabulously more efficient when you don't have social responsibilities.