Mixpost 6, or soundtracks to the cave

Buses, eh?

So, when I say I’ve been locked away recording, what I mean is that I’m using my upstairs bedroom PC which is not internet enabled. I still have a job to do, and other boring things where I can at least still refer to my music library. I mean, that’s why we have them, right?

I was listening to the first Menimals release after a sweaty session the other night, and tracks 2 and 3 in particular gave me indescribable pleasure. I had one of those moments where I had to give thanks for being alive at the time when this music was made. So it seems apposite to kick off with this:

I’d forgotten about this, found it whilst going through some old CD’s I’d ripped over a decade ago. They almost out-Cave Nick on this one:

Madrugada – Black Mambo

We’ve had what we in the UK think of as a batch of hot & humid weather lately. My crappy weather app kept promising thunderstorms, but not once was a promise fulfilled. Accuweather, for that and many other failures of forecasting, I want to say publicly that you’re shite. (sidebar: what a gig weather forecasting is. If I was as good at my job as the average weather forecaster, I wouldn’t have a job anymore. Yet still we glue ourselves to their predictions. The human need for certainty is probably the root cause of all our troubles, not the crappy explanations we then argue over and start wars over and then say that’s what the problem with humanity is.)

*cough* anyway, here’s a storm related tune:

Little Axe – Storm is Rising

So, as an upshot of that Rusalnaia album I’d blogged about, I did something I occasionally do which is to click on a random fan, follow their taste and see where that led me. It ultimately led me to the collection Wahkeena Sitka, who makes the song below, which also comes with a seal of approval from my daughter, even though it’s of a type neither she nor I listen to much:

Back when Sexwitch first came out, I read a lot of utter bollocks from armchair critics who wanted to tell Natasha Khan she wasn’t allowed to reinterpret music that is of Pakistani origin even though she herself has roots there. I made the mistake of allowing that to put me off a bit and I wish I hadn’t. Music is as music does and will always speak for itself, and I fucking love what she’s done and I say do it again.

Pontiak’s new album is their best, and I really should do a post on it. While I think about that, listen to this:

and I know I only recently banged on about this, but it rules, it really does. Have it now, and have it loud:

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Tribe – Abort

One of those albums I’ve listened to lately that I mentioned in passing. This is one of those bands from my youth that I neglected to mention in that mixpost I did about being 20, though I think I actually discovered them aged 21 anyway. This album has some genuinely great tunes on it. There have always been great artists that have gone unheralded in their time. This is why we have memories (and recordings…)

This was called ‘alternative rock’ back in the day, a stupid genre name which I’m using even though if this exact album was released today I very much doubt they’d put that tag on it because of its vacuous meaninglessness. Maybe they’d call it psych-rock which is fast heading in the same direction! It’s easy for me to scoff cos I didn’t do it (to paraphrase Chick Hicks), but I can’t think of a label hence why I’ve gone with the lazy one with added snark. The snark is probably to hide the fact that I myself haven’t got a name for the nameless.

There’s a Phd in that for someone who can be arsed to do it.

Loosers – Hot Jesus

loosersBefore I go off on a larger point, let me tell you about this album in my wishlist by an outfit called Loosers.

Hot Jesus is a sonic mishmash of hypnagogic 80s style synths and AOR blended with early 90s rave-culture sounds, mixed with a kind of kosmiche style repetitive delay-guitar riff style supporting a more solo-ey approach. There’s a rock rhythm foundation with percussive polyrhythms appearing regularly, sometimes approaching Gamelan structure in complexity.  The last tune particularly puts me in mind of Nathaniel Mayer. If you can think of a handy label to accurately convey what I’ve tried to describe there, feel free.

Loosers themselves are a Portuguese group with whom I was previously unfamiliar; on this release they are joined by vocalist Jerry the Cat, who has spent time with Funkadelic it says here. They are remarkably difficult to find anything out about, though.

Of course, I would like to know what their name is communicating at me. Are they a collective of people who are looser than everyone else? Or are they making what is a sadly all-too-common mistake these days, and they actually mean Losers, as in people who lose rather than win?

For those of you unaware, if you mean the word where you’re not winning, you only want one letter o. If you have two letter o’s, you literally loosen the letter s that follows into the softer sounding version. The one where it sounds like a z requires only one o.

Do you see what I did there? It supports my larger point, which is to do with the power of language. Language is the oldest technology that man has consistently used, and it has continually evolved for that length of time too. This means that the tool we have at our disposal, if used properly, is incredibly powerful. It’s not perfect, though, and I reckon that’s probably my underlying theme in my more creative aspects, particularly the doodle-blog.

Unfortunately, people are more and more slapdash in their use of language these days. I’ll give you an example – the word ‘awesome’ is an adjective from the word ‘awe’ which actually means something mighty, something to be marvelled at but also to be feared more than just a little bit. The word ‘awesome’ as it is now popularly used, though, simply seems to mean ‘quite good.’ (I would refer you to a ghastly youtube thing called Little Kelly, but actually, no, stay away, for the love of God, stay away for the good of your sanity).

Words are used out of context more and more often, people simply thinking that others will know what they mean. No, we do not know what you mean because we are not you (except on a much larger metaphysical level, maybe, but that’s a discussion for another time and person). And it is my hypothesis that the reason we have such a confused world at the moment is because people are not clear about what they say to each other. Communication is incoherent; ergo, the world is incoherent.

So, think about the words you use. Yes, this may mean you use fewer of them. Probably that would make social media much less busy. What’s not to like?

Of course, if Loosers are in fact a collective of people who really are  communicating that they are looser than the average, then the above opinion is not relevant to this post. I still stand by it, though.

Work in progress – do not fill the gaps

It’s very easy to look at things the wrong way.

For example, on the back of this new year and the inevitable lists from people about what they liked last year, and its conjunction with the fact that I’m at my most skint for a decade and will likely be for a while yet, it could be very easy to get depressed about the fact that I’m never going to be able to buy all the albums I’ve put in my Bandcamp wishlist in the last few weeks, let alone anything else that’s not out on the platform.

But of course, there is another way of looking at it, and I’m going to use an analogy, because I like doing that.

This is not an exact figure, but there are roughly 7 billion human beings on this planet of ours. Of those 7 billion, I reckon 99% of them are actually wonderful people – it’s just a shame that the 1% that aren’t seem to feel the need to try and rule the rest of us, openly or otherwise; also it’s a shame that us otherwise wonderful people keep falling for their bullshit time and time again. This, ladies and gentleman, is exactly why I’m interested in magic theory – it explains an awful lot of the world a lot better than the random chaos meets survival of the fittest bollocks that passes for a worldview in mainstream society, although there is more to memeology than I originally gave credence – ironically, one of the most unscientific theories ever to be popularised by a  wannabe preacher supposed scientist!

Now, I am never, ever going to meet all of these wonderful people, which is in many ways a shame, but in the most important way is in fact unimportant. It’s enough to know they are there, and that when we meet we should enjoy each others company.

So let it be with all this tremendous music which is flooding my perception on a daily basis, as well as my continued rediscovery of all the wonderful stuff in my epic library. Because I unashamedly have a world view that is largely at odds with the current paradigm, I’m at one with the idea that I can’t have it all and have it now, but I feel that I get what I need when I need it. And so, I shall continue to add things to wishlists, and because Bandcamp has some good features which includes being able to listen to said album all the way through at least once (depends on how many times the artist/label has set it behind the scenes), I know where it is for the future. Also, I may even get to buy it in said future so that I can support said artist/label.

But there’s gonna be a whole heap of posts coming up…

 

Confessions of a stats nerd

Or: Why numbers will always be numbers.

Some or fewer of you may have looked over at my last.fm profile page if the mood has at all come upon you to look at what I have been listening to. If so, I have sad news that will only get sadder: most of what I listen to these days no longer gets caught by the intrusive eye of the scrobbler, and therefore doesn’t get ‘captured.’ The list then, is vastly unrepresentative and explains why I shall no longer link to it on my ‘about‘ page whenever I next get round to updating it.

But really, is this so great a loss?

Some while back, I was talking to my brother about the limitation of using ‘play count’ as a kind of measure of how much you like an artist. I used the following example: I could listen to a whole album by Nu Sensae in slightly more than half the time than I could listen to my favourite track by Terry Riley, giving Nu Sensae 14 plays whilst Terry Riley gets just the one. And yet, I personally get much more pleasure from that one play (although my brothers response was: ‘I’ve heard neither, but I can already tell that I would like Nu Sensae 14 times more than Terry Riley…’ – in honour of which I shall create a new tag of ‘music my brother wouldn’t like’ which shall be applied to anything with an average length of more than 3 minutes – so most of my posts, then). Not to disrespect Nu Sensae – when I’m in the mood, Sundowning is a cracking little album.

So quantity in this regard doesn’t measure quality. The amount of times I listen to something is not actually an indicator of how much pleasure I get from it. And it can absolutely never capture those ‘moments’ – such as like the first time I listened to Inutili, whose play count still hasn’t reached double figures and yet currently rank amongst my favourite new music. And there are occasions when you listen to something that really makes your day, yet that experience is never repeated and you stop listening to that thing. It doesn’t mean that one time wasn’t valid.

So lets have a look at my ‘top artists’ for what will probably be my last time.

alltime10

Really, for sheer amount of time I’ve spent listening to an artist since I joined in late 2010, Oneida should be top by a mile. Their average song length is quite long, though, especially the recent stuff. Big Blood, despite being relatively recent additions to the library, thoroughly deserve their place. This isn’t to disparage Thee Oh Sees – I get enormous pleasure listening to them. They are a truly wonderful band. But by my listening standards, they have short songs.

Another thing to point out is that there are many artists there that I don’t listen to so much these days – smaller catalogue, not so much recent activity, gone off them a bit, all or some of the preceding or something else entirely. Which leads to the hypothesis that the longer this thing continued, the more artists there would be in the upper echelons who are actually not getting listened to that much. Unless, of course, my favourite artists never change. With me, that is never going to happen.

Many years ago, when I entered the PC age, my first PC lasted quite some years before complete breakdown. During that time, the play count on Windows Media Player had racked up an impressive chart. Although this was only songs, if the top song was ‘Dubby Conqueror’ by Burning Babylon and it had been played 150-odd times (which it was at the time it broke), then it was a fair estimate that said song was amongst my favourite songs ever at the time. However, that isn’t a fair picture. I had the PC on all the time even when I wasn’t at home, and I left the music playing on shuffle. Most of my active listening was actually on shuffling, and only if I didn’t fancy something  would any choice on my part influence the play count.

In fact, it’s only really since 2010 that I’ve started being a more focussed album player rather than having music on shuffle, which is a very passive way of choosing entertainment, letting a computer do your thinking for you (sidebar: those of you who have ever succumbed to that disease, have you ever noticed how certain songs keep getting selected, even from a library of thousands?) So although I love that tune still, since the scrobbler, it hasn’t even been scrobbled ten times ( I can’t find it on the tracks chart, I went down to everything from 10 above, and my eyes went funny so I stopped).

To use an analogy, in cricket, a flat-track bully can get quite an impressive average over time if he always performs against minnows, but against the best teams you want your players who bring their best under pressure, who often don’t have averages as impressive – my thesis for this is because their guard is down against teams they expect to beat, or when their team mates have already walloped the bowlers around. So, when your mood calls for music to lift it, do you go to play counts and say ‘well, I’ve played this most, it’s therefore my favourite, therefore its guaranteed to work?’ If so, I’ve got a large organisation I’d like to offer you a job in.

We humans like charts, don’t we? I’ve been as guilty as anyone. I think that numbers are almost always useless without context, but we as a species seem to forget the whole context bit, and just focus on the numbers.

However, the recent reboot of Last FM has ‘coincided’* with the scrobbler on my net PC at home going cuckoo, and I frankly cannot be arsed to try and sort it out. I’ve much more important things to do, like being a dad, playing a guitar, reading books, doodling, tending the few home grown veg I can fit in my garden, or staring blankly into space.

It’s actually been a lot easier to give up the idea of seeing who I’ve played most often than I thought it would be. This probably tells you/me something about the nature of giving stuff up in general. It’s surprisingly easy to do when fighting it is more trouble than its worth, harder when its not.

So, when I play music at work, it may get scrobbled, it may not. And that doesn’t matter.

I may do a part two, and if so it will delve into the notion of converting the wonderment that is sound into numbers – i.e. my thoughts on digital music. However, that may only depress me, since realistically the vast majority of music I listen to will be digital.

*I don’t believe in coincidence. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before.