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Category Archives: songs

Stuff to Read – 06/21/2011

Noise du Jour: A Critical Analysis of “Ode to the Bouncer” by The Studio Killers – Ectomo

The video deserves further analysis. The first thing anyone notices about little Cherry is that she’s positively chubby. And not in that over-voluptuous, massive-titted way that most cartoonists represent “heavy, sexy” girls. Cherry’s got soft arms, fat knees, a wide and mobile rump, but most unusually, a round belly. Try finding that in idealized female portrayals elsewhere–it’s not easy.

Pitchfork Interviews: Louis C.K. – Pitchfork

C.K.: When I say awful things, I think it’s clear to the audience that I just stumbled into a terrible part of my brain. It’s just where my brain goes first. The difference is that I said it out loud. That’s all. It’s just a big excuse to say awful things. But people know that. They intrinsically trust somebody: He’s just fucking around. People get tired of processing life in a linear way. When you watch my show or my stand-up, you’re opening the top button on your coat and sitting back, but with your brain. When I say vulgar things, it’s usually not to be mean or sexually charged. It’s just a dumb lashing-out in a direction that’s inappropriate.

Talking Bollocks – Garth Ennis’ John Constantine part 1 – Mindless Ones

Bullshit ain’t about lying…Like bullshit, bollocks is subtle. It is used as a declaration of falsehood, but it’s also, more commonly, used as to denote poor quality, or, like bullshit, highlight truth rejecting nonsense, or to punctuate a fuck-up.

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Post-Black Metal-Shoegaze

So, I haven’t talked about music very much on here, but I am into weird extreme stuff. Mostly metal, electronic, industrial or rock. I tend to hop around lots of different stuff, though. I’ve written about metal music academically, it wasn’t a terribly solid paper, but my professor liked it, so I may post it up online at some point. I’m a big fan of black metal, which is a hard thing to say in an academic world, or if you are trying to hit on women. But, I follow the music that I enjoy very closely. I don’t think I’m telling any tales out of school here, but academics are usually a few years behind what is happening in the underground, or at the very least, a few years behind the developing mainstream. Regardless, I try to stay connected. I have a very good local metal store, follow particular labels, jump around Youtube, and have some very hip friends who send me new music.

But, this is summer, and I’ve been very bored. So, I’ve taken to being annoying on Facebook as one of my new hobbies. The other day I posted this status update:

Basically, I was bullshitting. Completely and totally. I was simply trying to be annoying and say something completely absurd that my friends will look at and think me weird. It is a hobby. But then, a friend called me on my bluff, which I suppose by being a bullshitter, you are constantly asking for. I had to explain myself.

I had noticed a particular grouping of ‘French Post-Black Metal-Shoegaze’ artists being posted online in various different places. So, my status wasn’t coming out of no-where. And, for the record, I’ve only listened to a couple of the above mentioned bands. But, I had a bit of a Baader-Meinhoff moment. I saw all several bands from France with this very particular, somewhat bullshit genre title. The very idea of Post-black metal-shoegaze made me laugh, and that so many were from France made me laugh even further. Thus, the stupid status update.

However, I realized that some of the music I had been listening to in the last few days was falling into this genre distinction more and more. It wasn’t the bands above, but some other strange stuff that I downloaded just for the sake of trying something new.

So, for such a bullshit genre, why was I liking it so much? Shoegaze and Black Metal should NOT go together. Never ever. But this stuff works so well together, it blows me away.

I mean, just look at these totally hip dudes:

http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Deafheaven/3540315870

It isn’t exactly black metal. Even though it is just music, black metal isn’t about cool dudes with nice hair and ironed shirts.

And really, it isn’t all that dissimilar from the traditions that black metal has established for itself in the past, particularly the suicidal black metal sub-genre. Long, droning songs, incredible bleakness, and the general sense of melancholy that black metal and shoegaze are both known for. And yet, there is something very romantic to both genres. Romantic in the literary sense. To help define that, let’s go to Wikipedia:

In part, it was a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature.[2] The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror and terror and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities, both new aesthetic categories. It elevated folk art and ancient custom to something noble, made of spontaneity a desirable character (as in the musical impromptu), and argued for a “natural” epistemology of human activities as conditioned by nature in the form of language and customary usage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism

An early post-black metal-shoegaze fan.

Strange bedfellows indeed, but perhaps not as strange as one would think. Is Deafheaven all that different from Xasthur?

Well, maybe a bit. Xasthur falls very firmly into the ‘suicidal black metal’ sub-genre. Some of the markers are there and some aren’t. The aesthetic is slightly different, but you can hear the basic framework, I think. But mix equal parts Xasthur with My Bloody Valentine…

I’m not listening to the French, however. That part is still bullshit to me. I’ll get to them someday (I’ll admit that French black metal is often overlooked and unappreciated…). I’m really loving two bands in this rather long and specific subgenre: Deafheaven from California (posted above), Cold Body Radiation from Holland, and Woods of Desolation from Australia. Hell, I’ll even throw in The Angelic Process as a similar act. Though, maybe it was Justin Broadrick’s band Jesu that helped to make Shoegaze a little more extreme. I’m sure he isn’t the first, but I remember a lot of cross-genre appeal to the Jesu releases (and I remember thinking that very strange).

And what makes something post-anything? Well you got me there. I’m not terribly sure. Taking the aesthetic of a particular genre, but doing something else with it? Post-punk isn’t very punk, now is it?

So, that is where I am right now. There is without a doubt more to be explored in this genre, and more to be discussed, but if I can at least share a couple of bands and the direction that music is going, I’ll be happy.

Not a terribly insightful post, but whatever. There are some excellent songs here.

And yes, Michael questioning the validity of shoegaze as a genre onto itself is rather humorous to me. And honestly, I couldn’t really think of many shoegaze bands to post in this in order to compare, but I remember the genre being very popular when I was an undgergrad in college (not popular at my college, but with cool people, as the genre had a bit of an emo-inspired resurgence).

Edit:

I keep coming back to this article for some reason. I think there are a lot of questions here worth exploring. Is it black metal? Is it even metal? How do we determine the differences and why? I might come back to this more later in a separate post, but these are just some notes.

Undoubtedly, I would say that this stuff is not black metal. At all. We all know that there is more to how we define music other than just its sound. I’m not sure I would even bother asking if my local metal shop had Deafheaven in stock, as opposed to a more traditional local music location. Maybe that is my own insecurities, though. I don’t know…I’ll figure something out later.

Kornwolf –

Since I’ve finished my thesis, I’ve taken to reading for pleasure again. I have a nice pile of books I’ve been meaning to read or re-read, and I’ve decided to start by re-reading Tristian Egolf’s Kornwolf.

Tristian Egolf killed himself a few years back, and I think it is one of the great tragedies in contemporary fiction. His novels may not have been as polished as Dave Eggers or Michael Chabon, but I think that was a part of his greatness. It is a shame that he hasn’t been hoisted up to their level, as I think they would have challenged each other in very interesting ways. I always like to joke about how he could have taken them all in a fight. Sort of like Hemingway or Kerouac, he seemed like he lived a bit more than most writers. Apparently he finished the first draft of this book and ended his own life. Some comments on Amazon, perhaps rightly, suggest that it could have been fantastic after just a bit more work. Perhaps so. I’ve always loved and recommended it, even with some of its imperfections.

His prose is convincing. He implements a lot of folklore research and makes you believe in Amish werewolf lore in a way I haven’t encountered in other fantastical narratives. What would happen if an Amish boy, rebellious and struggling with puberty, accidentially stumbled upon a cassette tape of Slayer’s Reign in Blood, and played it secretly in his Rumspringa approved tape player? What if that boy may have been genetically linked to the cursed blood of folk legend? There is also a deep satire that runs rampant throughout, but never insulting the wrong people. I always respect that. The bitter journalist who left the townies behind, forced to return to earn money and write for the local paper, all while trying to figure out the weirdness that has boiling up in the town he grew to hate.

Also, one of the best descriptions of a Slayer (or any metal song) in any body of literary work:

This equipment had never emitted such grating, cacophonic belches. It sounded like a chain saw, whining and rising in sharp, sporadic bursts, then leveling….till the bashing commenced: like a trash can lid being whacked with a crowbar —ONE, overtop of the chainsaw, then — ONE, TWO — more menacing now, more deliberate —ONE —as a serpent coiled to strike — ONE, TWO — the strike giving way to a gallop: the pound of a broken fan belt slapping the underside of an engine hood: approaching, over the fields, preparing to sack and pillage and raze and defile — ONE, TWO — with the chain saws winding, the crowbar, the fan belt, pushing to a head, then: “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH” — a scream, like ten thousand demons plummeting hell-bound, end over end…

I can’t embed the song, so click here to hear it.

Brilliant, long winded, exciting, dangerous, curious. Just like a teenage boy, growing up in a secluded and separate community. As if the author was listening to Slayer for the first time, having never heard any other form of music before. The music is beautifully described, and metaphorical in terms of plot and character of the young lad, Ephraim.

Anyway, I recommend it.

Bring me my megabuster…

So, this is a topic I felt like I driven to write about in some capacity. However, this will probably be rather rambly and discordant.

The article over here states some very interesting points in regard to this sudden (is it?) genre explosion of nerd music – a term that I particularly despise. It sort of sensationalizes the concept of enjoying the music into something only a nerd is capable of doing, and also associates the environment which helped produce the musical text as something inherently nerdy. Not to mention associates the listener with a problematic, though a re-appropriated term. Nerd was never something I was comfortable with defining myself as, even in an ironic/accepted way. I have enthusiasm over many things, some of them associate with traditional nerdom, some not. What it does speak to is sort of the alarming trend of hegemonic power over people who chose to ignore traditional media and fan activities.

Genre works as a discourse, a constant dialog of shifts and changes within a particular set of associations and generic “rules.” So, saying this music is a new “genre” is odd to me, because bands like The Protomen (of whom I am a huge fan…) is rock music, not nerd music. But, it is this paradigmatic shift in genre towards this evolving and new media landscape of the internet that, I think, is partially causing some of the needless tension. Contemporary music has been built up on the DIY ethos of the punk and post-punk movements, creating a viable performance network and distribution of music and expression by un-signed bands, and to have it be profitable. This ethos is still applicable to the current generation of underground bands that make up this movement of “nerd music,” but is also greatly expanded by the internet.

We live in a postmodern world of immense media saturation, to the point where all texts become inter-texts. Where the creation of something new is inherently constructed by something in the past. All texts link to all other texts, and influence the author. So, the fact that this music uses cultural reference points ( nerd rap, or the nostalgia of 8-bit noise, etc) isn’t anything new, revolutionary or particularly important to the music itself.  Black metal bands build albums around Norse myth, and The Protomen have created albums around Mega Man myth. The act becomes culturally significant, however, because it speaks directly to a culture that would get/understand these references, and be able to engage with them in a serious way. And this contemporary nerd culture often lacks a voice in media – they are presented to (with video games, comics, film, etc) but not asked to participate with their culture, unless it means buying more products. Nerd music has created this participatory output for a culture that is heavily mediated, and thus, exposed to cutting edge texts and technologies to use and engage with.

Part of the problem is America’s fear of messing with intellectual property, I believe. The movement and genre play hasn’t developed too much because it isn’t profitable for major record labels, especially if they have to worry about Capcom suing them because The Protomen have put out a new album. It is nearly impossible to escape political economy, and this is no exception. The second a major corporation can figure out how to get Anamanaguchi on MTV, this sort of debate will change in a drastic way.

Another part is authenticity. Music fans are intensely fierce and protective. Cover bands are never seen as authentic, and originality counts. I think a lot of the fear comes from the ideas around what it means to be original. Girl Talk is respected and seen as authentic, but his music comes entirely from cut up samples of other musicians. Is he more or less original than The Protomen creating a story around the mythos of the Mega Man universe? The documentary Rip: A Remix Manifesto posits the idea of creativity and cultural development versus intellectual property, and again, is related to this discussion.

That being said, I can’t stand about 99% of it. But, it is certainly a topic for interesting debate. Nerdcore has sort of exploded (enough so to have its own documentary…), but for my money the best “nerdcore” song is by someone who doesn’t fit the nerdcore mold, and possibly not even known within the nerdcore culture:

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien has a brilliant song about video game culture, and able to keep the cultural cache (another important element of this debate…) of auteured hip hop. And he was able to do this 4 years before MC Chris burst onto the scene. So, this idea of contemporary inter-textuality has been around, and musicians were willing to play with this idea a decade ago.

Do I want to listen to Nerdcore? No, but I don’t want to listen to country music either. But, of course, there are always exceptions to these rules. Quality helps, authenticity helps, originality, expressibility, performance, taste – all of these help. I’ve gotten friends into The Protomen not because they play video games and are literate in that medium, but because they like a lot of the music and culture that came out of the 1980’s, and The Protomen is clearly influenced by that. That being said, I have friends who love video games and even Mega Man that wouldn’t touch the band with a pole. There is lots to be said on this topic, and it is certainly complex, but in 10-15 years I think people will think we are all being silly for having such problems with “nerd music.”