August 3rd, 2016 – April 22nd, 2017 (Twenty second week)

This one took a while, maybe the longest gap between entries so far. I actually cheated and listened to other records that I haven’t included here but will include in the next post, if there is one. I’m feeling unsure about this whole thing again. First, it’s very self-indulgent and not interesting to anyone but me. I know I’m doing this for myself, but it’s hard to shake the thought that it doesn’t need to be online. I’m also doubting the efficacy of it. First, it took me almost a year to listen to ten records (well, a bit more, but you get my point), so is it actually urging me to listen to more records? At the same time I also went beyond my self-imposed ten records a “week” limit and listened to other things I haven’t written about yet.

I think that after the initial rush of actually listening to 10 records every week, this blog became a way with which I’m cataloging what I listened to. The idea is that I can go here and read about records and see what were my impressions of them because sometimes I really don’t remember. If I really liked a record or really didn’t feel a record, and I don’t remember that, then I have reason to put it on. The issue, though, is that I almost never check this site to find out what records I should listen to again. Another problem is that writing the entries takes a while. It’s just so much time and I find myself wanting to spend this time on other things, which is because I don’t have the need to express myself in this way about records I listened to.

So is this thing over? Maybe. Right now 220 records in almost two years seems like a pretty good accomplishment to me.

1. Conrad Schnitzler – Rot [1973]

“Holy crap!” was my reaction as soon as I put this record on because the sounds are just so incredible, full of clarity and focus, and beautiful and weird both at once. He creates suspense, anticipation, and progressions with just sounds, no melodies to help the pieces evolve.

What I really like about this record, and I think Con is similar in this way, is that it’s timeless. It could have easily been made today and no one would have thought it sounded dated.

Rot predated Con by a few years, and I think it stands on its own. However, it’s a lot more abstract than Con. I think I listened to Rot 20 times now, but I can’t really sing anything out of it. Of course, I would recognize it if it played somewhere else, but there’s really nothing that I can grab onto to remember the record, hum it to myself, or anything like that.

2. Faust – Faust [1971]

I’m going backwards. I started with Faust IV which was their last record, then to So Far, and now to their first record. It’s interesting hearing their progression in reverse.

This record is more jam-y and kind of psychedelic. It seems obvious to me from listening to it that they were into a lot of British bands of the time, but a lot more experimental than any of those bands were. There are little drones, stuff that sounds a bit like collage, weirdo vocals, synthesizers, and spoken word.

I read a review of Faust IV before that sort of called it their mainstream record compared to the records that preceded it. I see where that reviewer came from, but I disagree. Faust has longer stretches of noise/experimentation, so naturally it’s a more difficult listen, but experimentation isn’t measured in length. I think experimentation has to do more with how far the artist goes outside of their comfort zone, and whether or not they’re doing something that was done before. Artistic experimentation is a personal thing and Faust IV has them doing different, new things. Faust IV has them moving completely outside the British psychedelia thing.

3. Conrad Schnitzler – Blau [1974]

My first thought was that this record is more musical than either Rot or Con, which in my mind it’s a bit diminishing but I really shouldn’t think of it that way. Blau is just easier to follow because there are identifiable intervals and melodies that don’t sound like transmissions from another planet. The end of the first track has a guitar!

Where this record really shines is the bonus tracks. Even though I had access to them, I didn’t listen to them at first because I try going by how the record was originally released. However, one time I let it keep playing and I was absolutely hooked. I think it’s fair to say that like the “actual” record these tracks are also musical, but at the same time they’re a lot more radical. Just like Rot this record definitely sounds like it could have been released today.

4. Suicide – Suicide [1977]

A couple of years ago I was talking to my friend about cats and he told me one of his cats is named Frankie Teardrop. So I asked what or who he named him after, and he played me the Suicide song. I asked if that’s how the song just goes for 9 minutes and he said “yeah”, so I replied “yeah, I got then idea then”. Now that I think about it, that’s probably when he stopped liking me very much.

It’s kind of funny that that was my attitude three years ago. Not sure why. I like this record, and I like Frank Teardrop, but I honestly haven’t listened to it a lot. Probably because it’s so intense.

5. My Bloody Valentine – Glider [1990]

I read an interview with Brian Eno on The Quietus before his latest record (The Ship?) came out. He listed his favorite (or recommended) records and this was one of them. I listened to Loveless before and it didn’t grab me, but that was easily 10 years ago.

When I put it on my wife looked at me and said “what is this? pop music?!” and yeah, the first song is like that. The second, Glider, is awesome noise, err, collage? Or maybe a collection. Then a couple more songs that are more like what I remember Loveless to be like, except that I now like it. The ghost-like vocals (especially the ones sung by a woman) are hitting a spot for me, but I think what really does it for me is that the band sounds like one instrument. Like one human played all of them at once. All of it – vocals, bass, guitars, drums, feedback – the band gels together real well.

There’s something comforting and predictable about this record. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it’s almost like I know where the music is going. It’s not a bad thing, even though I think I’m making it sound like it is. I think I’ll just have to keep listening. Thanks, Brian!

6. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen [1968]

Leonard Cohen died at the end of 2016, and I started writing this entry in 2017, but I actually listened to this record last summer before Leonard Cohen died.

I never really listened to Leonard Cohen before. I heard Hallelujah, of course, but that was it. I heard some of his songs on WZRD here in Chicago and I liked them immediately. I went ahead and got this record (one of the songs they played was Marianne). I like it, but I find that I feel about the folk revival the same way I feel about hardcore punk, which is that the genre was really saturated. I think that the folk revival had more finesse to it, but at the end of the day it’s a man or a woman with an acoustic guitar singing songs, and I like it, but I don’t have the need to listen to every folkie. I do, however, think that folk has more to offer because the singers usually have pretty unique voices. Also, some folk musicians evolved when the 60s expired – like Dylan and Cohen did. I should also say that I don’t feel this way about actual folk music from before the Great Depression.

So where does it put me when it comes to this record? I don’t know. I like the songs and the lyrics seem good (I never really “get” lyrics), but I don’t desire to listen to it often or a all.

Yeah, this entry isn’t saying much.

7. Silver Apples – Silver Apples [1968]

The first thing I noticed is the compact, succinct drums. The drums sound like loops or a skillfully programmed drum machine, because there’s little to no variation between one bar to the next. On Program, a four minute track, the drums are exactly the same for a minute before there’s a drum fill. Then it’s the same beat with a bit of accents on the snare. It really is like a drum machine where the accent has been turned on for the snare hits, but you know, with a beating heart. It’s interesting that this was happening here in 1968 while at the same time Jaki Liebezeit was working in Germany on similar of minimalism and repetitiveness of the rhythm.

The tone generators do a lot more than I thought they could. What I mean is that I have heard of the Silver Apples before and knew what they were about, so I formed this idea that it’ll be very primitive in terms of the notes and sounds. It’s not like it sounds like a synth, but it doesn’t sound rudimentary either.

I have talked before about how I experience music differently when I sit in front of the speakers vs. when I do stuff around the house. That’s about how much attention I’m paying to the record, but with this one, there’s no way one can experience it when not being in front of the speakers. This record is panned like a lot of 60s records, but it has this really psychedelic, trippy effect here. I actually felt a bit nauseous at times.

 8. Fire! – She Sleeps, She Sleeps [2016]

Fire! is sort of a supergroup that I’ve only recently heard of even though they’ve been making records since 2009.

I spent some time thinking about if this record is “new” or not, and I know it’s stupid and is a problem that’s plaguing me, but what can I do. At least it makes me listen to things more intently. Anyway, yeah, I think it’s new.

They create an atmosphere in each song in a way that I don’t think I hear often. Part of it is the recording, which is exquisite, and makes me feel like I’m in the room where they recorded. But it’s also something about the timbre of the instruments and how they blend together. Instruments drop in and out and let others take over, but at the same time no one is ever claiming all the space that was given to them.

It’s free jazz but it’s not pummeling the listener like a Coltrane record could. Mats Gustafsson creaks and howls, but he’s also following a tangible melody and not cramming a million notes in. The guitar is also unconventional to free jazz – no virtuoso solos or disjointed ba-bee-boop solos, and no too many chord changes when accompanying the rest of the group. The guitar player sort of just spits out sounds that add to the atmosphere.

Lastly, the drums. Very choppy but at the same time flowing. Beautiful beats.

9. Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity [1975]

I think this might be my favorite Kraftwerk record so far. I like all of them, and they are all different, but I like what this one establishes. The tracks are beautiful and kind of sound like German folk songs but with synthesizers and drum machines instrumentation. There are “space” sounds. There are odd sounds. It’s a little experimental. Their singing is great. They essentially talk with a bit of a tune in their voice, but also none of them is a “singer”.

Unfortunately, not all the tracks on this record are like that, onlyRadioland and Ohm Sweet Ohm. The rest are shorter, and either more experimental and “weird” or more, eh, bubble-gum-y?

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this record, at least for now.

10. Joy Division – Closer [1980]

This record is the sole reason why it took me so long to finalize this post. I actually finished listening to all these records way before 2016 ended, but I had and still have a hard time connecting with this record, or Joy Division in general. It’s not that I think that Joy Division were bad, but that the mood of their music is very specific and I never find myself in that mood. I also noticed that whenever I listen to them I’m a little hungry and their music makes me desperately hungry.

I like most of the songs on this record with the exception of a couple, but the thing for me is that at first they weren’t memorable. What happens often when I listen to music is that it either wows me as I’m hearing it, so then I want to hear it again because I remember that it blew my mind (for instance, Conrad Schnitzler records did that), or that a couple songs get in my head and I went to listen to them again. With Closer, none of the songs wowed me or got stuck in my head, so there was never something that was driving me to listen to it again other than feeling like I should listen to the record so I can write about it. It’s only now, April 2017, that I woke up in the morning and had Twenty Four Hours and Decades in my head, and that’s because I listened to Closer last night in order to familiarize myself with it further.I’m still conflicted when it comes to their “sound”. The records sound awesome, but their sound also places them in that time period. Moreover, it was Martin Hannett’s sound and not theirs.

 

 

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