Filed under Modigliani

October 27, 2017

I had written stories to conclude my previous art book projects. So let’s pretend to do the same to the most recently finished one, by actually writing about Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers. I could do so merely because of the cover art, which is a photo of one of Modigliani’s female head sculptures, even though my actual execution involved only paintings. When I first skim-listened (because New Romantic in another album of his sounds nice), which happened before the project, I wasn’t particularly impressed. One day, after I finished the project, I went to Andy Stott’s page again to renew my subscription to New Romantic – the two events were unrelated. Suddenly that elongated face that I lately became familiar with caught my attention. Though this particular one isn’t featured on the art book.

So I tapped in and gave it a second listen. I don’t remember if I got to my present day level of appreciation of these sounds precisely on that day, or if my turning from disinterested to infatuated was because of the realization of who made the album cover sculpture. At any rate, since then I have been drawn into this record deeper. And it reveals additional connections to Modigliani’s sculpture works: the sound palette is heavy, colossal in size, much like the African art inspired bulky legs and bodies of the caryatids; saturated, grainy in texture, just like the surface of the stone material that Modigliani worked with. The opening Time Away pretty much has them both – as if the deep and long lasting calls resounded through pre-historic time to this very moment. A third connection, there is the wonderful female vocal appearing throughout the album; unlike every other heavily processed sound, it is mostly left untouched, embodying the pristine femininity exuding from the outward roughness of the stone work… I’m probably connecting dots that never exist… So much for a clearing of the throat then.

I can very well relate why Violence is one of the hottest hits. In between the fragile, unstable, volatile singing inside a pitch-black room that is occasionally pierced by a flicker outside the window, the two grave, massive outbursts work like a slaughter machine, swallowing and grinding all your sick, deranged, and misanthropic substance to produce a gigantic organism of emptiness.

Just noticed in On Oath, between the musical sentences played by the first woodwind-like layer, the blank is filled with some faint humming of a rotating mechanism, which actually is also the last sound heard in the end. This and the previous reference to machines are enough to evoke that industrial gloom that prevails Eraserhead that I recently watched, leading properly to Science & Industry, a nice rise in tempo structurally

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R+7

July 6, 2016

More than a year ago upon first hearing it, I was taken aback by the chiptune-like arpeggio in the opening track but subsequently discovered the sparkling loveliness adorning the rest of the 40 minutes. The impression still persists. But somehow the light of the gems suddenly was able to pierce through my heart as I picked it up again, perhaps because my BoC fever has finally receded to a healthy level.

If Boards of Canada evokes imagery of my world view and abstract emotions, then maybe R Plus Seven by Oneohtrix Point Never is more like a personality portrait. Be it an individual track or the flow of the entire album – if there exists in it such a thing as a flow at all – unexpected turns of events or an abrupt abortion of an ongoing theme can occur anytime anywhere. And of course it never happens in an unpleasant way –

After the ostentatious opening, ‘Americans’ brings twenty seconds of calming air from a distant afternoon playground before a rapid change of focus on a secret garden rising out of a fresh downpour. The dazzling young green rocking up and down as dewdrops roll off is my first favorite melodic moment. I could stare at this for hours but no lingering is allowed. A long interval of fast-forward with space warping and human voice jittering throws me onto the clouds and left me gradually descending into the world of Botanicula, where the sap running through the transparent leaves resonate with peculiar little creatures making their own noises. The unique signature of choral elements in R+7 is notable for the first time. At first, one bright-eyed creature sings a note or two and immediately disappears to give way to another. The tiny random contributions thus piece together rhythmic patterns that friskily hop into different keys.

All that vanishes before my eyes and a short practice session ‘He She’ makes the transition to a hushed ‘Inside World’. The female vocal has a sparse but coherent line accompanied by broken pieces of sounds. It feels as if hearing my cell splitting and blood circulating with slight irregularity. Then comes the gliding waves gently pushing me to the realm of mind. It too is so brief that soon the first theme returns again.

And before I am drowned in my inner bodily reflection, ‘Zebra’ lashes out its briskness at full force. The first theme is repeated for two minutes with naughty brass and joyous choir scattered around before it breaks down and comes back to a state of ‘Inside World’. Fragmented electronic church bells sway in the ambiance; random horn melody wanders aimlessly further and further away. And then a prolonged pause. read more …

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Snoopy Goes 3D

March 23, 2014

As a fan of Snoopy comics and old animated movies, my initial reaction to this news was also “eww”. But to be honest, this 3D Snoopy doesn’t look all that bad. Well, it’s true we can now see Snoopy’s fur and – oh, good grief – Charlie Brown’s teeth! That’s a lot of unoriginal details compared to the comics. But if we look around at any other 3D animation we will notice the modeling of this  movie is so simplistic. So it really depends on with what we compare it to. Going 3D inevitably brings texture, shading into the business. Apparently the movie makers don’t lack the technology to make it much more realistic (like what Disney did with the ice and the snow in Frozen?) But they choose a minimal setting, and perhaps even a bit too plain. That brings me into thinking that they have made an effort to try to balance between natural looking in 3D and the original style of simplicity. One doesn’t simply say something is inappropriate just because he believes it should just be the way he thinks it ought to be.

Since some protestors brought Tintin into the conversation, I will take it and I think it illustrates quite the opposite point. I first get to know about Tintin from none other but the 3D movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The animation quality only adds to its brilliance. (Uncanny valley? Just another typical syndrome of narrow-mindedness.) Exactly because of the movie, I got interested and moved on to read the original comic. At first sight I was amused by the portrait of Tintin. I thought, two dots for his eyes? But pretty soon I loved the comics no less than I do with the movie. So why can’t I be more open-minded towards the 3D Snoopy?

We see Snoopy everywhere, on pencil boxes, on T shirts. But how many know what kind of character Snoopy is? The point is to have more people discover the greatness inside the beagle. Some of them might, like myself in the case of Tintin, go to dig for the original comics. And maybe they will appreciate the comics better, or not. What matters is Snoopy continues to bring joy to the world, and his spirit continues to kindle our hearts.

Now that well reminds me of BT. His late effort has been devoted to making “entry level” EDM (I just meant dance-floor inspired). I remember him saying

…as people get into the dance music their tastes change and refine and then listening to something like what I do or Boards of Canada or Au5 appeals to them.

(Hey hey, I’m a living example here again!) So if he wants to make something to entertain his target for a while I’m all fine (though I don’t listen to them.) And this is analogous to what I’m trying to say here regarding the new 3D Snoopy movie. I might still not be so much a fan for the visuals. But judging from the trailer, which has already  presented some of the very essence of the peanuts gang. I gladly look forward to seeing it. I hope it still conveys the warmth, loveliness and naughtiness, which could definitely be done.

Last Year’s Harvest

January 8, 2014

It is said before this album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, was released, the label invited listeners to go to the desert. And there they played the entire album accompanied by visuals. Even if I haven’t seen any video clips from that scene, the knowledge of it alone has had a great impact on the listening experience.

Prior to this release, Boards of Canada was mostly active before I started listening to electronic music. I regret that I only got to know about them in last June, when suddenly the entire electronic music community was flooded and thrilled by the news of BoC’s return. I couldn’t remember how it felt when listening to the preview, or the full leak. Perhaps didn’t appreciate it too much, that is, compared to today’s feeling. I figure I decided to buy it partially also out of awe for Warp records. But as soon as I got my hand on the hard copy, I couldn’t get it off.

A trumpet opens the curtain and briefly calls for attention. Immediately I’m drawn to the outer space. Everything becomes still. The emergence of the periodic rumbling and the electronic noise on top are as if an approaching old spaceship, gradually covers half of the sight. It then fades to the other side with its unfinished mission. Last December I was supposed to see the Geminids. But the stormy weather didn’t allow this, leaving me with a small sigh.

As I’m pondering over the lost sound, the next second I’m brought down by an earthly power. Reach For the Dead is the one. Isn’t this earth the whole world when I’m down on it. Isn’t this earth so vast and solemn. I’m watching the polar dawn over the ice blue landscape and focusing on the subtle friction. It could be a lone traveller’s dragging leg over the snow. How I love hearing this granular grinding. How I wish to be decomposed to be one particle of that sound. Now, I hear Trance fade in. I think this must be Trance, non other is. Because the slowly but surely rippling sound wave comes to overwhelm my consciousness. There it goes “Listen” – and it intensifies. An un-resting oscillation floating above the silent ground, the memories from the past racing through the present mind, until even the pillars of percussions couldn’t sustain it and give way to the quelling orchestra. This tranquilizing effect must be the work of the force of gravity. As I’m ready to close my eyes in peace, a transient coupling of broken hats keeps my arms reaching out. But I never got hold of anything. read more …

If The Stars Are Eternal

May 25, 2013

Another sleeping beauty awakened.

I used to think the opening track 13 Angels On My Broken Windowsill is the only listenable track. Now it seems likely the conclusion was drawn from the frustration of the un-chewable Go(d)t that follows. So I procrastinated the ordering of this album till a year later – so late that if not BT’s next album is coming out.

After an excursion into the Mount Carmel, it felt better to take a nap with the new CD than to read information theory. So it set off with the familiar soundscape of 13 Angels. The bells ring to the wind and the wind brings it to every corner of the space. Added to that reflective ringing is an absorptive pavement of calmness. It might be reminiscent of the sound design of This Binary Universe. But the incorporation of dubstep paragraph seems to be an emulative protest against this assertion anyone would have in the beginning. I still don’t submit to this blend as I didn’t one year ago. But I don’t know perhaps this brutality is exactly why the ending becomes my favorite part, which is a soulful ascending from the flesh of reckless bassline. A weightless and thoughtful formulation that radiates much more electronic fragrance than those of three minutes ago.

I honestly don’t understand why that flawless ending would fade into this null space of Go(d)t. Better for later research…

Then I thought I dreamt about being waken up by a remote call from the past “It’s okay, just wake up… Wake up!” And the world starts to whirl like a balloon in some unintentional humming notes. The theme of Hymn [808] never cease to repeat itself with only minor yet intriguing glitch tweaks that often occur, adding to the seeming monochrome some kaleidoscopic hues and shades. And of course the joining in of the percussion that manifests itself in a most IDM way makes the whole thing complete.

On a structural level of the entire album, the inclusion of some feet-aiming dance music also reiterates its determination not to be a This Binary Universe Vol. 2. It never hurts to release oneself by some 4/4 beats of Hikari after a trek of inner exploration. Although Seven-Hundred-Thirty-Nine might have been too athletic to fit into a mind seeking for aesthetic pleasure. Thankfully as a law of nature the energetic 739 does not and cannot last very long.

Our Dark Garden is a global maximum of the entire 80 minutes. It begins with the gentlest guitar stream whispering into me and my heartbeat can’t help but to synchronize with it. Then the scene gradually zooms out, leaving one to realize the guitar stream is the only source of warmth in this vastness. But it’s so nice to witness the harmonious dynamics in spite of a bit of coldness. And finally the hopeful vocal comes to mix everything and takes everything away. Yet the seeds containing the light are forever left on earth.

The closing track is a fine mixture of ambient, glitch and mainstream dance music. Overall uplifting, well-carved and shows the opposite of what its title indicates.