Thursday, 15 April 2010

I haven't written much over the last few months. I'm just busy and writing isn't really my primary hobby. But I don't like neglecting my blog for long periods of time, especially since I have much to say about music. So, here's some recent thoughts:

The new Gonjasufi album is awesome. It's pretty much the Madvillainy of 2010. I make this comparison mostly because the album has a bunch (20) of short songs and it's innovative for the hip-hop genre. I definitely think it belongs in that genre, because of the sampling, but certainly some tracks take more of an IDM/electronic slant. Gonjasufi is certainly not a rapper, he sings in several styles, soul, blues, etc., but the rap and rhyming never comes up (it would be interesting if it did). Genres aside, it's such an interesting record and I love listening to it. It's just ridiculous how many good songs are on it, especially since they're short and abundant. Immediately, I latched on to the songs "Sheep" and "Duets," among others. I'm not much of lyrics reader, but I really like was GS has to say. It's simple life lessons, expressed perfectly emotively. I really can't praise the album enough.

My most recent purchase has been the album Lux by Alex Smoke. I've never heard of this guy until this year, but when I did, I was intrigued. It's pretty much techno, with some IDM. There's really interesting vocal manipulations on a few songs, like "Platitudes" and "Lux+," where the words fade away and the sound is all that matters. They're so interesting that I wish there was more of them on the album, but alas, there are not. It's still a fantastic techno album, being both heady and danceable, listenable, yet movement-suscitating. It's exactly the kind of balance that I like for this genre. On a side note, an acquaintance remarked to me the other day that techno was too repetitive, an argument that I seem to hear a lot from detractors. I disagree, though, in that it's no more repetitive than any other genre, but the repetition may be more noticeable since techno often lacks vocals (certainly contrary to rock music). Though I concede that techno may be considered more repetitive also because the song structures rely heavily on a repetition-and-variation pattern. So maybe that's what irks some? Not me. Getting back to this album, I haven't really examined the song structures, but it doesn't sound "too repetitive" to me. More listens are required.

Now I could just go on and on about the new Joanna Newsom masterpiece, Have One On Me, but it's pretty much been critiqued to death by now. Suffice it to say, it's great, it's different from Ys, it has a lot of songs, it's going to be considered on of the best albums of the year undoubtedly. My fave song right now is "Soft As Chalk," and it can all be summed up in one word: lawlessness. I kind of miss the harp, since it seems to me that piano dominates the instrumental part of the album (haven't actually counted the songs), but if I want to hear more harp-ing, then I'll just put on Ys because it's still a classic.

Some other favorite songs right now are: "Super Coming" by the Boredoms (it's bizarre and amazing), "Arms Against Atrophy" by Titus Andronicus (the new album is outrageously brillant, but this song can't make it's way out of my head, I even know the lyrics!), "A Larger Silence" by Ludicra (why did Decibel only give The Tenant a 7?? It's outstanding, 8 at least! I need to pick up their old albums and I hope they tour some more this summer) and "The Creeper" by Pelican (their last album was WAY underrated and "The Creeper" is one of many highlights)

I recently revisited the album Background Music by Give Up The Ghost/American Nightmare/American Nothing/etc. and it is truly a hardcore classic of the last decade. The passion is there, the lyrics are far more interesting than most hardcore bands, and the clean production gives it a freshness and bite that most bands just don't have. I remember this band being divisive when they were still together and it makes sense to me, but I'm on the "for" side. It's nice when punk rock isn't just preachiness and fuzz guitars (not always a bad thing, admittedly); it's a good change of pace.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

VV on the cover of Decibel

Not surprisingly, there's been some controversy over the fact that Decibel has chosen to put infamous murderer and racist Varg Vikernes on the cover of their new issue (oh yeah, he also makes music). I was reading this blog and my first impression mirrored her outrage. I mean, why in the world would any magazine choose to put this dude on the cover? The first impression it gives is one of acceptance and endorsement, and who would want to endorse the Count? It seems so idiotic to make a move like this. The only magazine that I read every month a fait une connerie.

But.... I soon realized my first impression was totally lacking in nuance, totally polarized, and this is an issue that demands nuance. It's easy to just call Vikernes a racist and murderer and that he shouldn't be given press attention since his ideas are outrageous, dangerous, and downright despicable (and this is all true). However, I think we must respect people's right to say what they want, whether it's something we agree with or not and whether it's something ridiculous or amazing. I think censorship is generally bad, but it goes both ways. We can't exclude unfavorable and unpopular opinions (I'm sure I have my share of them that no one wants to hear --- voilĂ  ce blog).

Then there's the issue of acceptance and endorsement. Decibel obviously endorses Vikernes as a musician making music a genre that they cover. He's historically important and musically relevant to the magazine. It simply makes sense to include him in the magazine. But why the cover? Probably because he's so controversial. I'd say that he warrants a cover story. Endorsing Vikernes as a musician is not the same as endorsing his misdeeds, past, present, and potential. The same could be said of any other musician on the cover or in the stories. The others just haven't done anything as extreme (-ly messed up) as him.

I've honestly never listened to the music of Burzum. I enjoy black metal of the Norweigan variety, certainly not every band, but it's a genre I devote time and attention to nonetheless. The politics turn me off and there's plenty of other black metal bands (Norweigan and non) to keep my attention. Despite historical importance, I just can't bring myself to really care about Burzum. There's plenty of bands in musical history that occupy a place of high influence, but that doesn't stop me from not caring or liking them (see previous post about important bands that actually suck). So, there's really no reason for me to pursue the music of Burzum, other than to be more clued in to the controversy. Even if I did take an interest in the "band," I probably wouldn't pay attention to the subject matter in the lyrics, since I rarely care about lyrics anyway, and that goes doubly for metal of any sort. And I wonder how many metalheads really do pay attention to the lyrics or message of a band. And then, how many actually take any of those messages seriously, pondering them like some great philosophical arguments?

For some people, it's always going to be a matter of the fact that Varg Vikernes has done some reprehensible stuff and he's a bad person. They can't separate his music from his horrible character. Fine then, don't listen to his music, don't pay attention to him. I just don't think it's fair to slag anyone who chooses to listen to Burzum and automatically brand them a racist or supporter of murder, because she or he is probably not. She or he probably just wants to hear the sounds, since you know, it is music. It's truly only the fringe of an already fringy group of people that actually endorse racism and murder (or am I too optimistic?)

So do I support Decibel's choice to put the Count on the cover? I do, but I'm not without reservations. And after reading the story and the notes from the editor, I get the impression that the writers felt approximately the same. It's a tough, gnarly issue, that's undeniable, but it needs to be talked (or written) about -- both the character and music of Burzum and the choice to put Vikernes on the cover.