Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I’m Listening To (1/21/14)

    I thought I’d try a new feature here on In the Mouth of Dorkness, focusing on one of the parts of my nerdiness that I don’t talk about all that much, my love of music.  I am not an audiophile.  I don’t have an opinion on vinyl.  I don’t have any kind of education in music theory, and I didn’t spend my high school years living in an indi music store, talking to all the people in local bands.  Heck, I’m not a fan of the Beetles, Bob Dylan, or Michael Jackson.  I’m just a dork who listens to music and is always glad to find something new.

    For a long time, I would joke that everyone I listen to was dead.  That isn’t the case anymore, thankfully.  Over the last ten years or so, I’ve found several active, productive bands and artists that I can now look forward to hearing new music from.  You’ll notice I don’t stick to one genre, nor do I tend to explore any genre too deeply.  I may love Ministry, for example, but not go for a lot of other respected Industrial bands.  I may find myself listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins, but not go in for Albert King.  And I go through moods, phases where I’ll be very into a certain type of music, to the exclusion of all others.  And then out of nowhere, I’ll be on to something different.

    I don’t know how often I’ll post one of these.  My moods often last for a few weeks at least, so I might go quite a while without new music to talk about.  Hopefully no less than once a month, I’ll write up some of the albums and songs I’m most in tune with …Oh, puns…at a given time.  Of course, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.  Most of the music I discover comes from two sources, movie soundtracks and friends.  On the rare occasion I listen to the radio, it’s NPR, so I don’t hear new music there, and am generally unaware of whatever thing is ‘hot’ right now.

Without further blather…Oh, wait, with further blather…here’s what I’m currently listening to:

Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Kala
    I’ve been dimly aware of M.I.A. for quite some time, but never given her much attention.  I knew she had that song with the guns going off that was featured in Pineapple Express (Paper Planes) and I knew she was from Sri Lanka (well, born in England) because of some dialog in the movie Hanna.  But other than that, nothing.  After catching a couple of her tunes on YouTube for some reason or another, I got hooked and picked up Kala.  Right off, I was into it.  As a young teen, I was listening to a lot of early rap, N.W.A. and Public Enemy mostly.  And that’s what M.I.A. reminded me of straight away.  There was a raw, garage sound to the music, but also a vitality you tend to miss in big studio albums.  Add to that samples of music and instruments from around the world and it’s a crazy mix of sounds that’s infinitely danceable, but also layered enough to concentrate on.  As a long time Cyberpunk junky, I couldn’t help but think of this as being the sound of the Sprawl.  I wanted to take out my copy of Count Zero and jack in.  The weakest two tracks on the album, XR2 and Come Around are still perfectly listenable.  Ten of the twelve tracks were instant classics in my mind.  If I were pressed to name my favorite tracks, I guess I’d have to go with Bird Flu and $20.

Artist: Kate Nash
Album:  Girl Talk
    I find something very charming about Kate Nash’s lowbrow London accent and awkward relationship stresses.  When her new album came out, I picked it up, but I wasn’t quite in that mood, so it sat by my desk for a while.  When I finally popped it up on my playlist, I was kind of surprised by it, but pleasantly so.  While she’s still singing a lot about the struggles with love, betrayal, and confusion, and she still has that Rose from Doctor Who accent, the music has a much more polished and produced sound to it.  But where some performers loose their heart when the glitz is added, Nash seems to have kept her harsh edge.  There’s a retro vibe to it, tapping into 80s punky flare and even a bit of rockabilly.  I really like Part Heart and Sister, and You’re So Cool I’m so Freaky is cute.  Plus, the song Labyrinth is based on…the movie Labyrinth.  So, that’s cool.  Rap for Rejection is probably the weakest track.  It just doesn’t quite work.  Overall, the album is pretty good if you’re in the mood for her sort of music.  This is good post break-up music.  Or maybe, it’s really bad post break-up music.

This tune needs more propellers!

Artist:  George Antheil
Album:  Antheil: Ballet Mécanique, Serenade For String Orchestra
    While recently reading the book Heddy’s Folly, I was introduced to the rather odd character of George Antheil, who seems to have been trying to make Industrial music within the cultural and technological constraints of early 20th Century orchestral work.  Well I just had to listen to this guy’s stuff.  Interestingly, like the author Robert W. Chambers, he was quite popular at one time, but has now fallen off of most people’s radar.  I was able to find a CD and give it a listen.  It’s pretty intense.  Ballet Mécanique is darned intense.  His desire to make mechanical music, music as written and performed by machines was pretty out there.  I feel like there’s some similarity to Gershwin, though you’d never mistake one for the other.  Perhaps just elements of the times in which they were working.  If you haven’t listened to Antheil’s music, it’s something to check out for sure.

Artist:  Magnet
Album:  The Wicker Man (soundtrack)
    I recently started work on a script for a horror movie.  The idea started as a kind of modern day pagan tale, but has evolved away from that.  However, part of the vibe I imagined when I started has remained, that of the 70s pagan/psychic/Satanist type horror films, like The Wicker Man, The Exorcist, or The Fury.  In keeping with that, I’ve been kicking around the soundtrack of The Wicker Man, which is so much of its time.  I love it.  I can imagine the slightly oranged film footage, the tweed jackets, and the subtle hint of sinister post-hippie madness.  The whole album, from the saucy, beer soaked tune The Landlord’s Daughter, to the dreamy Willow’s Song is quite good and evocative.

    That’s all for now.  I’m sure I’ll be having some kind of tectonic shift in listening soon as it often changes in a big way with the seasons.

It might as well be spring...


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