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July’s eMusic downloads August 5, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Canadian content, Music.
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Riechmann: Wunderbar

Riechmann: Wunderbar

Still no sign that eMusic Canada is going to be getting Sony and the price changes and all that crap in the near future, so I’m still a happy eMusic user. And here’s what I’ve downloaded lately…

Conrad Schnitzler: 00_346+00_380 _ Mixes 1 and 00_346+00_380 _ Mixes 2; Klaus Schulze: Cyborg, Irrlicht, and Mirage. This was inspired by a Simon Reynolds article from 2007, just reposted on his ReynoldsRetro blog, called THE FINAL FRONTIER: The Analogue Synth Gods of the 1970s. The article makes two points: first, that there’s a whole school of electronic music that’s almost forgotten now or at the very least considered dubious and uncool; second, that some of it is actually worth hearing. It’s a look at the spacy, cosmic electronic music by the likes of early Tangerine Dream and others, and Schnitzler and Schulze were both mentioned in the article. So, because I do consider myself an electronic music fan and I did miss out on a lot of that stuff (seeing some of it as dull and pretentious at the time), I’m doing some homework.

Riechmann: Wunderbar. I’d never heard of the artist or the album, but the eMusic blog 17 Dots did a feature on it that intrigued me. I was sold by the comparisons in the first paragraph: “the B-Side of David Bowie’s Low or moodier Kraftwerk or any of Brian Eno’s ambient/electronic works.” It’s a 1978 album by someone who’d worked in the past with members of Neu! and Kraftwerk, a bit influenced by New Wave. One track sounds a lot like Neu! spinoff La Düsseldorf, who sounded at times like an inspiration for Ultravox. So, yeah, this is up my alley.

Subhumans: Death Was Too Kind. Not the UK band, the Vancouver band. For some reason, their music hasn’t been well represented on CD. I’d love to just get a CD with the Death Was Too Kind EP and the Canadian Incorrect Thoughts LP, both of which I have on vinyl, but instead I have a compilation album called Pissed Off… With Good Reason!, which has a few of those songs, and crap mp3s from a long out of print US CD version of Incorrect Thoughts, with a different selection of songs. I downloaded several tracks from this compilation to fill in some gaps, so at least I have the digital equivalent of the EP, but I still need a proper release of the album.

Various artists: Ragga Jungle Dubs. Continuing my slow but steady exploration of post-reggae music, this is a collection of ragga jungle, the reggae-influenced, pre-drum & bass sound that was briefly popular in the UK. I’m still not crazy about ragga vocals, but the “dubs” part of the title means that there aren’t as many vocals as there might normally be.

Beat Pharmacy: Wikkid Times Remixes. I really liked the dub techno/reggae crossover sound of the original Wikkid Times album, and I like these remixes, many from well-known dubstep producers, too.

2562: Love in Outer Space/Third Wave. New dubstep/techno crossover single.


Sonic Youth: The Eternal

Michael Rother: Flammende Herzen. Rother was one of the two key members of Neu!, and this is an early solo album of his. This is like a prettier, more accessible Neu!, and may prove to be a better listen, longterm, than Klaus Dinger’s post-Neu! project La Düsseldorf.

Joe Gibbs and the Professionals: African Dub All-Mighty Chapter 3. I like dub reggae but don’t actually have all that much. This is supposed to be classic stuff, and certainly sounds good enough on first listen.

Higuma: Haze Valley. Sort of psychedelic/drone/ambient, though the epic first track gets pretty loud.

Nadja/Black Boned Angel: Nadja/Black Boned Angel. Speaking of loud, this Canada/New Zealand collaboration starts out as layers of ambient drone before somewhat more recognizably metal influences pound their way in, not that a lot of metal fans would necessarily recognize it as such.

Metric: Fantasies. More good new wavy indie rock from Toronto, not a major departure at all from their past albums.

Various artists: Kill Rock Stars Sampler 2009. Forgot I downloaded this. It’s a free sampler of random tracks released over the years on the Kill Rock Stars label, including songs by Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith, the Decemberists, and others.

Sonic Youth: The Eternal. New Sonic Youth albums don’t always get the amount of play around here that they should get, because there are so many great old ones. But there’s good stuff on this album; I just have to make a point of remembering to listen to it.


33 1/3: Daydream Nation (2007) May 7, 2009

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Daydream Nation

Matthew Stearns: Daydream Nation

Sonic Youth’s 1988 album Daydream Nation is one of the great rock albums of the last 25 years. It’s the record on which, after releasing several noisy, experimental, and sometimes inconsistent — but generally good — albums, Sonic Youth took a bold step towards accessibility without selling out. There’s noise and strange beauty, but there are also some great rock songs there, too.

Daydream Nation was well received on its release and got a lot of good reviews, which is how it ended up being the first SY album I bought. I loved it from the first listen and still think it’s one of the highlights of their long, productive, and still ongoing career. So when I heard that the album would be profiled in one of the 33 1/3 books, I was really looking forward to reading it. Then I hit Matthew Stearns’s wall of prose. Example:

If the act of listening to music requires some degree of participatory commitment from the listener, and if that commitment itself takes place as a kind of merging and identifying with the action and drama of the record, then Daydream Nation asks for one hell of a commitment. Based on the sheer scope of  its attack, Daydream Nation poses a direct, imminent threat to the safety and well being of its listeners. At the very least, it threatens the security and structural viability of its listener’s ears. This record eats ears — chews them up with its gnarled sonic teeth and swallows them whole.

In this sense, it’s perfectly appropriate, and not shameful at all, to be slightly frightened by Daydream Nation. By reputation and in size, it stands as a kind of outsized rock ‘n’ roll behemoth — an overwhelming monstrosity (in the sense that monsters typically tend to be born of extremes, rife with power, difficult to contain, and mythic in proportion — Daydream Nation certainly meets all of these qualifications) capable of crushing the will of the most resilient, well-intentioned listener if the necessary preparations haven’t been made.

Um, no. Never mind that swallowing something whole generally involves no chewing. This is unrestrained and undeniably enthusiastic, a rush of words written with passion, and it was probably a blast to write, but it doesn’t make for good reading.

The book does have a lot of information; Stearns had some access to band members, and SY’s Lee Ranaldo wrote an introduction. But that prose style just never lets up. I’ve read a dozen books in this series but this one was the only one I had to struggle to finish.

Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth (2008) April 29, 2009

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Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth

Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth

Just finished reading Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth, a short story anthology edited by Peter Wild (and released as Empty Pages in the UK). The stories take their titles and inspiration from various Sonic Youth songs, some apparently trying to reflect something of what the song’s about, others taking the title as a starting point and going in their own direction. Mary Gaitskill’s the only writer here I’ve read before.

Interestingly enough, there’s elements of genre fiction here, including a ghost story and a story with a hint of Ramsey Campbell horror. Another is on the border between fantasy and surrealism. The book is not, for the most part, fiction about music. It’s not like Pagan Kennedy’s The Exes or Joe Pernice’s Meat is Murder or other fiction about indie rock. The one story that focuses most on music, the editor’s own contribution, is partly set at an MC5 concert and is about the turbulence of the 1960s, rather than about Sonic Youth.

For the most part, it’s a solid and generally well-written collection of modern literary/mainstream fiction. At times the SY influence is overt; other times, it’s barely discernible. But each story has a brief intro by the author to provide a little context. Perhaps surprisingly, there aren’t any stories noticeably influenced by SY’s own literary touchstones (the Beats, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, etc).

I’ve dug out all my SY albums to make a playlist of the songs included, because some of them are from albums I haven’t listened to in a while. Not that it makes all that much of a difference. The stories generally draw on something evoked by song titles rather than building in any way on any narratives in the lyrics — not that Sonic Youth’s songs necessarily lend themselves to that.

Wild has also edited Perverted by Language: Fiction Inspired by The Fall (I like them but I’m a lot less familiar with them, but on the other hand it has stories by Steve Aylett and Jeff VanderMeer and I may get it after all). The next book, Paint a Vulgar Picture: Fiction Inspired by the Smiths sounds like a must-have, though I’m not sure I’ve read anything by any of its contributors. But given the more storytelling-oriented approach of Morrissey’s lyrics, it’ll be interesting to see how the writers work with those songs as inspiration. Wild is also planning similar books inspired by some other bands I love (Joy Division, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground), so I expect to be reading more of this kind of thing.