29
Jun 00

SPIRITUALIZED – “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”, “Come Together”

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Both songs are in waltz time (3/4, or at least 6/8, but close enough) – but it took me until this week to realize it (typical). Any odd time signature is a funny thing – for whatever reason, we’re so accustomed to 4/4 and similarly even times that the odd ones seem off-kilter, sometimes clumsy (though some, like Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” (from the album of odd-meter experiments, Time Out) in 5/4 time, are eminently swinging; some like Herbie Hancock’s “Hidden Shadows” (from the otherworldly Sextant) use something ungodly like 19/8 and turn the clumsiness into deep, deep funk). I think waltz time is different, though, because it’s still less than four beats per measure – rather than being tempted to hear it as 4 plus some leftover beats, our natural expectations are thwarted, and we have to start counting all over again before we’ve “finished” (1-2-3-1-2-3…).

This is used to great effect in these two Spiritualized songs. In the first, the relatively straightforward 3/4 at the beginning is obscured by the round format, and the patented J. Spaceman kitchen-sink production. Thus the off-balance 3 is stretched out, fitting the song – everything’s off-balance, just sort of drifting about, trying to come into synch with everything else. In the second, the rhythm is more obvious, insistent even, from the bassline and the snare hits especially. The 3 becomes a buffeting 3, where we’re brought through 1, 2, 3, then when off-balance, thrown back into 1 again, violently. Just like Pierce’s production (drums low in the mix, earthly anchors left behind), the meters here help toss the ballast, sending the songs heavenward and beyond.

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