Life Just Bounces don't you get worried at all. (A weblog of music and otrogenerica)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A break for art

On a whim, i said to Lachlann:
do a picture of Rupert Murdoch with his teeth bared, head retreating into the thorax of a beetle, with dozens of long spindly tentacles protruding, and a speech bubble shouting "crowdsource THIS!"
i then promptly forgot that i had ever said this.

Obviously, he went and drew it.

i swear this guy is the future of political/editorial cartooning. Alan Rusbridger in this Radio 4 documentary seems to suggest that there is a modern-day lack of such cartoonists, which is pretty odd, but definitely leaves the door wide open for more stuff like this. Myself, i can't wait!

Monday, 24 May 2010

One thing i've never quite understood about the Anfield rap

Does the Australian guy at 1:38 really say "cuz I'm sat on the bench, trying to jizz in my booze"?
If not, what does he actually say?
If so, how does he then rhyme that with "I'm very big down under but my wife disagrees"?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Glenn Branca & creativity/hope from the lower half of the internet

Composer and guitar-orchestrator Glenn Branca comes off inexplicably curmudgeonly and doomsaying in this blog for the NYT late last year, seemingly both claiming that creativity in music is dead (without really qualifying this rather sweeping statement) and also buying into the strange idea that music is some sort of linear progression of qualitative improvement, like the ever-decreasing time it takes to do a 100-metre sprint or something, which also seems pretty daft to me. Surely it's better understood like the outward expansion of an ink blot on tissue paper, branching outwards simultaneously in all directions?

For more than half a century we’ve seen incredible advances in sound technology but very little if any advance in the quality of music. In this case the paradigm shift may not be a shift but a dead stop. Is it that people just don’t want to hear anything new? Or is it that composers and musicians have simply swallowed the pomo line that nothing else new can be done, which ironically is really just the “old, old story.”

Certainly music itself is not dead. We’ll continue to hear something approximating it blaring in shopping malls, fast food stops, clothing stores and wherever else it will mesmerize the consumer into excitedly pulling out their credit card or debit card or whatever might be coming.
The best answer to Branca's thesis comes from the comments section of the same article, from one Matt Penniman.

In the last half a century we've seen Philip Glass achieve rather remarkable levels of productivity and popularity, Arvo Part create a new sound for choral music, Yo-Yo Ma bring awareness of Asian classical music to America with the Silk Road Project (and generate some appealing confluences of classical and folk with Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor), and much more. Meanwhile, the larger popular music culture has developed whole new genres, like electronica and hip-hop, not to mention more esoteric experiments like procedural music.

Crucially, these achievements are most visible in hindsight; if you want to say "sure, but what's happened in the last five years?" I would have to answer "plenty, but we won't know what was important for a while yet."
Or, like the first Premier of the People's Republic Zhou Enlai is reputed to have said, when asked about the impact of the French Revolution: "It is too early to tell".

Song of the day: #7 Sage Francis – "Little Houdini"

Sage Francis has a new album, Li(f)e. The first single, "The Best of Times", has excitingly and improbably been playlisted by Radio 1 and made single of the week by Kiwi overenthusiast Zane Lowe, as well as gaining approving airplay from the hopefully-to-be-reprieved 6 Music and the like.

It's a magnificent, swooning song, with the hallmark tuned percussion and strings of composer Yann Tiersen (Amélie, Good Bye Lenin!) underscoring Francis' crushingly sincere tales of mortifying youthful awkwardness and ineptitude. At 2:41 it gives way to Tiersen's more forthright rock style and then keeps building up to almost impossibly climactic heights as SF seemingly lays bare all the embarrassments of his youth, at the same time reassuring the listener to essentially get through it, that it's much worse when you're there. i could have done with a lot more songs like that in my early teens.

And i'm not even meant to be writing about that track.

The focus today is actually album opener "Little Houdini", the story of Christopher Gay, career criminal and escape artist. Gay decided that prison would not stop him from visiting his dying parents for the last time, repeatedly breaking out and making his way home in a selection of stolen vehicles, including a Wal-Mart truck and Crystal Gayle's tourbus. (His third escape seems to have been just for the hell of it).

Francis relates that he first heard of Gay's escapology career in 2006, and decided to follow the story in the hope of writing something about him at some future point.

There wasn’t much press about this story at all. Nothing national at least, which I still find strange. I put together what details I could and used a few lines from the actual news stories. The original article said, “This is what country songs are made of.” I thought to myself, “Sure…but this is also what a rap song can be made of.”

Fittingly, "Little Houdini" (after the nickname Gay received from the media) ends up somewhere between the two genres, Francis' lyrics continuing the long storytelling traditions and outlaw focus of both ("I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die"; "the cop got scared, the kid, he starts to figure,/ "I'll do years if I pull this trigger...""). The music, a collaboration with former Grandaddy man Jason Lytle, backs up the point, with lazily strummed guitar, droning violin/organ and a plaintive, distant sung vocal evoking the open road of the third verse, before it breaks into a propulsive 6/8 gallop of a rap.

The song celebrates Gay's spirit rather than excusing his crimes ("he knows what he done was wrong / but he knows his father don't got long"), but Francis mainly reserves his scorn for the armchair moralists who would condemn him: "y'all can turn up your noise / and suck on your teeth and wag your finger like 'tsk, tsk!' / but he had to take the risk".

And why not? Our mythology needs romantic anti-heroes, and personally i'd rather watch, e.g., Escape Artist: The Christopher Gay Story than Ridley Scott & Russell Crowe rehashing Robin Hood for the 35th time but with a boring new PoMo conceit.1

1 Having said which, i'd quite like to see Robin and the 7 Hoods, "a musical film set in 1930s gangster Chicago, with Frank Sinatra as "Robbo"."

Just doing my bit for the Streisand effect

In refusing to run this ad today, the Financial Times has inadvertently given it the extra oomph it needed to reach thousands whose general disinterest in financial wonkery would previously have precluded them from seeing it. All hail the Streisand effect! (pt. 483)

Alternatively, maybe there's a rogue environmentalist element somewhere within the FT that realised exactly what kind of exposure the ad would get if they turned it down, and strategically nixed it to gain that increase. Unlikely, but an amusing idea to me. Bottoms up!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Song of the day: #6 Delusionists – "Digital Connects"

Here's the Song of the Day for today, and most probably for the rest of the week too! Delusionists dropped a new album this Monday, Prolusion Plus, which as you can maybe gather is a boosted version of their previous smart 7-tracker The Prolusion.

Now with additional tracks, the odd alternate version and a couple of remixes, the EP has swelled to twelve tracks of UK dopeness. A proper review may well follow, but in the meantime check the awesome "Digital Connects", one of the aforementioned new tracks. Over a banger of a beat by Jon Phonics, Ben Black wordplays for dear life on the topic of the hottest spots to hang out online (hence the title, ya dig?) When i first heard it, i immediately thought "Tommy ain't my motherfuckin' boy...", not because i was having a multiple-personality crisis of confidence, but because the concept reminded me of the way GZA flipped the names of record labels on, erm, "Labels".

Two other awesome things about this track: firstly, the outro features a scratched sample of a yet-unreleased 30KB track which Mr. Black drops his fire on; and for seconds, this very blog is one of the ones namechecked in the song, rather awesomely ("be careful, cuz Life Just Bounces away..."). Apart from being a dope honour for yr humble writer, it also means i am finally succeeding (albeit indirectly) in my ambition of getting rappers to reference The Mighty Fall!

You can buy Prolusion Plus from Bandcamp for a paltry four quid, or a super-decent six for a real-life hactual CD. (The latter also had a cool-looking sticker, which has now been given pride of place on my newly-refurbished laptop.)

<a href="">Digital Connects (prod. Jon Phonics) by Delusionists</a>