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Jan 18

2018 Music Diary Week 1: The Week Of Flutes

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Last year I posted the new records I listened to every day on Facebook, deliberately writing nothing about them. This year I’m still listening to a new (to me) record every day, but I’m trying to be more thorough about what I think of them, and I’ll be posting this every week on here.

NEW MUSIC (2018)

cupcakke ephorize

Day 5: CupcaKke – Ephoriser: New LP from the Chicago rapper – last year’s Queen Elizabitch got the balance just right between ear-burning sex raps, conscious stuff, put-downs of the competition and introspective jams, and the beats were sproingy good-time things. This new one is a lot less fun – consciously so in places – but even the filth sounds jaded, dutiful even. Some strong, melancholy beats – a lot of woodwind – but they don’t suit CupcaKke’s aggressive, barking flow that well.

NEW OLD MUSIC (2017 or earlier, unheard)

polnareffs

Day 1: Michel Polnareff – Polnareff’s. Investigation of the French rocker mentioned in not one but two wildly successful manga (his shades-and-boa look is the visual model for Doflamingo in One Piece). I chose this fruity 1971 LP, on the basis that other French music I’d heard from that period had really fantastic arrangements even if the songs weren’t all there. My hunch was basically right: some lovely, opulent, orchestral rock which Polnareff doesn’t impose himself on too much. And some which he does.

saharan cells

Day 2: V/A – Music From Saharan Cellphones 2. Sahel Sound compilation bought off Bandcamp last February when it was having its ACLU benefit sale. Music from memory cards found on (presumably second-hand) North African mobiles, an origin story which gives this compilation an aura of serendipity it may or may not deserve. With a concept that solid it hardly needs, and doesn’t provide, coherence – but there are some bangers here, especially Nigerian rapper Lakal Kaney’s “Soul Tamashek”.

mesh hesaitix

Day 3: M.E.S.H. – Hesaitix. 2017 LP by a producer of spartan electronica whose abstract tracks (like “Search. Reveal.” on this one) keep cropping up on FACT year-end lists. This is spindly, skeletal techno, good January detox music if you’re doing that kind of thing. (I’m not.) The metallic sound palette – lots of whirrs, clicks, mechanical slides – reminds me a little of Photek’s 90s stuff, except that was comparatively lush. It also reminds me of this little dude from Tsutomo Nihei’s Aposimz.

aposimz robot

Only without the pissing.

traffic fantasy

Day 4: Traffic – Mr Fantasy (1967). All I knew about Traffic is that they made one of very few LPs owned by my Dad and that they were the original band who GOT THEIR HEADS TOGETHER IN THE COUNTRY. I don’t know whether that was before, after or during this enjoyable LP, which splits its time between post-music-hall pop and hippie jams with plentiful flute. The latter are much more my scene. At the remove of over 50 years I can’t tell if sitar groove “Utterly Simple” is sincere or a pretty venomous Harrison piss-take. I hope the latter, but it works in any case. Also very interesting to realise how much of his late 60s vocal style Bowie lifted from Steve Winwood (or from the people Winwood cribbed from, I guess).

wayne shorter speak

Day 6: Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil (1964)
. More jazz, selected because I know he played on LPs I like by Miles Davis, and because the description on Wikipedia made it sound atmospheric in an intriguingly witchy way. To be honest I found it a bit impenetrable – see comments on Bill Evans below for my lack of grip on older jazz. As for newer jazz…

emancipation


Day 7: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – The Emancipation Procrastination (2017)
. Final instalment of last year’s “Centennial Trilogy”, three albums commemorating the centenary of the first jazz recordings and taking stock of where the music and the nation that invented it might be now. (Track titles like “Unrigging November” provide a clue). Where the first LP was fiery and the second euphoric, this is more thoughtful and melancholy, with the trap percussion of earlier work replaced with long, pattering drum lines. A surging, uplifting end to the final track, “New Heroes”, provides a very moving payoff both to this record and the trilogy as a whole. Scott was a random find on the Spotify New Releases tab back last February, kickstarting a desire to dig into contemporary jazz and instrumental group music which was one of the most exciting threads of my year’s listening. Man in his mid-40s gets into jazz: let nobody accuse me of being too original.

OLD NEW MUSIC (2018, revisits)

Nothing yet, obviously.

OLD MUSIC (2017 or earlier, previously heard)

I played Bill Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard. This is likely to be an ongoing presence. I played it as part of last year’s 365-day challenge and the responses on Facebook were all wow, such awesome, much classic, etc. And I didn’t get it, but I didn’t dislike it, so I assumed there must be something I’m missing which would bridge the gap between “pleasant” and “magnificent”, and if I can crack what that is I’m likely to get a lot more out of all jazz listening.

I’m taking this pragmatically – if I can find the right circumstances for listening to Bill Evans, that’s a big step. So far, 2 AM lying in bed playing mobile games is most copacetic, but unhealthy to replicate long term. Tidying up probably least.

I played Oliver Nelson’s Blues And The Abstract Truth (1960) in similar circumstances. This one I knew from Mark S’ seminal JAZZ LIST post: it was my favourite of the ones he wrote about. There’s a really easy-to-grasp groove and melodicism which underlies the improvisation. Followed that with Steely Dan’s Gaucho (1980), which sounds even better very quiet and late at night.

I listened to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, which I adored at 14 and have rarely revisited since. Here is my canonical verdict on how good the tracks are, best to worst.

1. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (bits without singing)
2. Wish You Were Here
3. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (bits with singing)
4. Welcome To The Machine (crap song, good noises)
5. Have A Cigar

With hindsight the rot is setting in here: the corny but effective universalism of Dark Side Of The Moon replaced by self-referential games (however well meant), weary metaphors and rock star grumbling.

Finally, insomnia-fighting classical music. I refuse to use Spotify’s Sleep playlist, out of dogged I-am-not-a-number contrarianism. I tried a harpsichord performance of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, but the tone of the instrument was a bit too bright and wakeful. I had a bit more success with a Satie piano works CD by Joanna MacGregor, which lulled me despite the occasional sudden “whoa, that’s by Satie!” join-the-dots moment (I know even less about classical music than I do jazz. But perhaps I’ll learn.)

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