Monday, September 26, 2016

Song of the Day #340 - Bon Iver - 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄ (Extended Version)

And I cannot seem to find I'm able

Bonny Bear day is approaching. Are you ready for the next p4k 10? I'm going full-on no-spoilers mode, dodging the leak that I heard had Facebook messenger sounds (again proving the Venn diagram of "those who get high profile leaks" and "those competent enough to leak things properly" is basically two circles) and not watching the live performance everyone is gushing about. It's not even no-spoilers, really, as much as it is... just being so satisfied with listening to the three tracks I have that wanting more already seems gluttonous.

I already talked at some length about how impressed I was with the first single, but, as is often the case, it was the moment that I started hearing this one that I was actually convinced, this is the one that showed me the range he was willing to go with this new sound. The first song could always be a fluke, an outlier, but something this different and yet so clearly fueled by the same artistic mentality is proof that that mentality is so robust and fertile that we're looking at a WHOLE ALBUM of it, we're looking at a p4k 10 album of it hahahaha.

There's a lot of overlap between this and "Over Soon", and escalations too. The unicode in the former has evolved to full on EMOJI, in a move that not even witch house could have anticipated. Not since Commie put the 100 emoji directly in their fansubs have I seen this sort of typographical boldness. And the spaced camel caps, too, are inherently memetic, S A D B O Y S and PeNgUiN oF DoOm all that, but the actual meaning here is all the more mysterious through these immediate connections. Like, you know it has nothing to do with those memes, but then... What does it actually mean? What was the pre-meme significance? It is a chillingly difficult line of thought.

The same thing happens with the elements of the music itself - there's still this sample and loop based construction, but all the roles have been switched. Instead of the dreamy "positive drone" sound of "Over Soon", we get dense, dark, industrial beats. The pitched-up crying vocals sound like those that reminded us of Disney classics, but now the context is so different, we're forced to confront exactly what triggered those memories, what still remains common, what it signifies now... Is it some sort of ura-Disney, the dark inverse of the same mechanics? Or some primordial proto-disney, one only revealed by discovering a new branch on the evolutionary tree? Same goes for the enduring saxophone: the emotional tenor couldn't be more different, but it still hits all the marks of the iconic saxophone sound we heard before - instead of yearning and nostalgic, it's urgent, apocalyptic -  and is just as evocative. So what memories do we have of this saxophone? What world has it emerged from?

It is a maddeningly incomplete thought process, luring you into dreams, or maybe nightmares, that you had forgotten for a reason. The lyrics reflect this struggle, too, with irresolvable dualities of things like feverish/fever-rest, fuckified/fuck if I'd, or dismay at the irreconcilablity - the climactic "I cannot seem to find I'm able". At least I think that's what's going on, these lyrics are crazy, they could be about anything lol. Actually this whole album is crazy. And the best is yet to come!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Song of the Day #339 - Frank Ocean - Pink Matter (ft. Andre 3000)

Since you been gone, I been having withdrawls

First I should point out that the song I linked is not the real "Pink Matter". I couldn't find it anywhere on Youtube, so you'll have to settle for this "fan remake". And by "settle for" I mean "enjoy to an almost absurd extent". It is beautiful, it is passionate, it is unrestrained, it is surprising, it is everything the original is. Minus Andre 3000 I guess. You're welcome for introducing it or reintroducing it.

The Andre 3000 factor can't be ignored, though. Even if I didn't love this song, I'd feel obligated to write about it just to continue my cataloging of his rare post-Outkast appearances. We covered 20072014, and 2015, so let's get one from 2012 to start shoring things up. Like all of channel ORANGE, we start immersed in Frank Ocean's transcendental blissful soul... the dreamy guitar and piano chords are classic smart choices, but it's the strange, almost abrasive noises that drift through, at like 0:25, that really give it a unique edge. The lyrics discuss neurology, natalism, and cosmological ontology, framed in a dialogue between Frank and his "sensei". If it sounds too heady or pretentious for you, he flips it up with a quick Dragon Ball Z reference, and breaks away from his philosophizing to express - in his glorious soaring falsetto - the pleasure he feels... it reminds me a lot of the end of Chris Ware's Lint, if you've read that. Human, almost painfully human.

And that's the best way to describe Andre's verse, too. You can feel it through just those little additions to the beat just before he come in... just to make him comfortable. Seriously, how is he this comfortable? This conversational? This smooth?? While remaining such an absolute virtuoso, dropping some of the most rhythmically complex and meaningfully dense bars imaginable?? Andre's been playing with this sort of conversational flow since the days of Outkast - it's da art of storytellin', after all, but my favorite has to be his verse on "Humble Mumble". But in his solo career, he's been pushing it to new limits, finding sweet spots where he sounds like he's having a casual conversation among friends and is also undeniably rapping his heart out. Not a single point of infliction or rhyme feels forced, feels "performed", and yet it's so technically perfect, so tight, so fluid, so alliterative, so finely worded... I guess that's just how he is.

The stuff he raps about too, my God... "I had to tell myself naw, she's better some fella with a regular job" is heartbreaking, and "my memory's no sharp butter knife" resonates painfully with Benz Friends, two years later, giving us "had to write her birthday down cause my memory sucks". He drops a Hemingway reference, but the immediate followup "She had the kinda body that would probably intimidate any of 'em that were un-southern, but not me cousin" is so wonderfully colloquial that he's more a Twain or Faulkner for the 21st century. And the vague longing of the final "we'd flee to other lands" is, again, just painfully human. We have just witnessed a performance from an undeniable demigod of music, but it's the humanity fueling that really resonates.

Honestly, though, I think my favorite part is actually the bridge between this verse and outro. Like those noises I mentioned earlier in the beat, Andre's distorted mournful guitar solo, and the hauntingly distant vocals - "blue used to be my favorite colour" cuts so deep - there's an edge here that really elevates the song. The super abrupt ending too. It would have been so easy to keep it smooth, to paint everything in that crystalline creamy cloudy pink, to let the beat fade out, and that would have been a wonderful song. But it's these choices that make it cling to my mind four years later.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Song of the Day #338 - N-qia - earth (world's end girlfriend remix)

Last Waltz - Prelude

Okay well... I don't really have anything I can say about Song of the Day's absence lately, sorry. There's a lot of songs I'm very excited to talk about but my priorities are like: school > socializing > secret "masterpiece" blog post > fiction > manga videos > song of the day. When I was a NEET, and the first two didn't exist, and the third wasn't rapidly approaching the only sensible remaining deadline, I could have maybe done everything, but I didn't... And through this I know time isn't everything, there is an energy that is depleted too. But sometimes something REALLY EXCITING is happening and, to convey that excitement, Song of the Day jumps up into the achievable.

Something like: world's end girlfriend announcing his new album!!! Yes, it's happening!! It's called LAST WALTZ and from the description it sounds like it might be even more apocalyptic than usual. All of his music seems like it's taking place at the end of some world, be it external, internal, local, universal... Even tracks like this, comparatively "bright" and "stable", feel like they're taking place at the start of some great JRPGesque journey, and thus are a world ending in their own right - the end of the normalcy of life until that point. It's sublime.

I really can't say too much in praise of this mode... hyper-clean, complex, largely orchestral, but still somehow casual... no individual phrasing is too complicated, it feels as much a collection of people tuning and warming up that miraculously combined into something wonderful, a sort of "naturally emergent" pattern. And what more distinct phrases do exist, like the melody at 1:30 which I can never resist whistling along to, are so immediately and irresistibly catchy that they feel natural too, as if they sprung out of some "inevitable" place. Other things are so reminiscent of movie scores that they feel almost like pastiche, but a loving, evocative pastiche. The whole thing has this militaryish energy and gradual arc of growing complexity that pushes it forward through this cornucopia of sounds and memories.

It's just fantastic, please listen to it. There isn't much to compare it to... the only thing that really comes to mind is Aphex Twin's "4", one of my favorites of his. And other weg stuff - the title tracks of 2014's fantastic "Girls/Boys Song" EP (46 minute EP, lmao), some stuff off of the Starry Starry Night Soundtrack... This sort of "future orchestra" song, sounding like if the most "pure" visions of composition were extended into the computer age, and sang primarily the praises of the wonderful world that allowed their existence. I have no idea if LAST WALTZ is gonna sound like this, it could basically sound like anything lol. But this is good, this is what I've been listening to these days, this is song of the day, see you soon hopefully~

Friday, September 16, 2016

Song of the Day #337 - Elysia Crampton - Lake

Blissful Protohuman Memory Vibes~

I've been on a huge Elysia Crampton kick lately, inspired by her new album Demon City which... I haven't even listened to yet lol. I just thought "oh, I should go back and listen to her old stuff again first" and I've gotten so addicted that a whole new album feels, if anything, gluttonous. The "Moth/Lake" release has from last year has been at the forefront of my most recent fascination; we'll prolly look at "Moth" soon too. It's in a similar mode to her wonderful breakout album, American Drift, but with a more minimal, spaced out feeling... it's like an extention of the feeling I described in my writeup on "Axacan", where the forces that constructed the pan-American medley of the preceding songs now reaches back to the pre-America: crickets, traditional instruments, creaking wood, synths that sound like the collective voice of a people...

It feels very spiritual, in a way that feels amazing coming from the despairing atheism of "Moth". It's like... after all that abandonment, after confronting all that emptiness (more about this later), we're immersed into this beautiful scene, one that feels so natural, that feels like it extends infinitely before all the hubris and tragedy of humanity, and reminds you that... well, I dunno, something. Something primordial is stirred in me when I first hear those night sounds, something that, despite being very contemplative and intimate and distant from my life, flares up in me... I can remember one time, when I heard the crickets come in, I pumped my fists and shout-whispered "hell yeah".

It's a combination of  crickets being one of my musical fetishes (popping up on things like matryoshka's "Noctambulist", a contender for my favorite song of all time), and how I love to death these sort of "hesitant" rhythms, where the pause between the call and response is just slightly longer than you might instinctively guess based on the rhythm (as seen in yesterday's track)... the synthesis ofthis naturally occurring sound and this "natural"-seeming imprecise rhythm leads to "positive drone" deep mammalian (or maybe even lizard) brain-tapping, stirring up images of cavemen relaxing around a fire, the day's work finally done (the ease with which this image comes is sometimes very moving and peaceful for me, even if what I'm picturing is prolly totally inaccurate).

I dunno, I feel like I have a whole lot more to say about this track, but I have a very hard time getting any of it into words. I even delayed publishing it last night cause I thought I'd come up with more. If past patterns repeat, I'll realize the exact mechanics behind its unique haunting peace as soon as its too late, but then I can just use that when I talk about "Moth" ha ha ha good "life hack". And if I don't, it'll just join the many other songs that I've written about, and still listen to, and think new things about, and want to write those thoughts, but probably won't, and that's fine too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Song of the Day #336 - Travis Scott & Jeffery - Pick Up the Phone

Birds in the trap sing Brian McKnight~ (NSFW)

>hey song of the day is back!!
>song of the day disappears for like a week for no reason

I think it's cause we got off on the wrong foot last time. Bon Iver?? What was I thinking? This is a Young Thug blog. Wait, wait, no... this is a Jeffery blog. Sorry. There's a lot of tracks I want to talk about on his latest project, which has been getting some wonderful reviews across the internet. This is kinda a warmup to some of the crazier ones. I talked about how he seems to be breaking more and more out of the standard "beat + rapper" format, exploring the more "cinematic" territory of Kanye, Frank Ocean, etc, where the lines between performance and production blur... But here it's not so much, it's more just Thugger rapping to a beat with some friends.

But what a beat! And what friends! It's Travis Scott, so you know the production is just loaded with little flairs, totally filling out that mode of "aggressive cloudiness" while still leaving gaps and moments of anticipation... the simple steel drum rhythm at the start contains it all, the way there's slight arhythm of the gap, and then the way the next beat is just very slightly stuttered, almost to "fill it in", and by the time you're hypnotized by that (it really is so addictive!), he can interject all sorts of stuff like... 808 cowbells, huge staticky basslines, and, by the end, huge loopy cloudy apocalypse. And yet you're still transfixed by that original drum rhythm... it's like he somehow sneaked it in through the fog he created. So cool.

The rapping has the same sort of feeling, of that complexity sneaking up on you... everyone has a pretty straightforward verse, but little things like Jeff and Travis synced up on the hook and Travis's signature ad-libs ("Straight up!" is becoming an all-time favorite) keep you engrossed even if you feel like it's "easy". "I don't talk to no man in the middle/I don't talk to no man, I'm just kiddin" is quintessential Thug, but the following "but I did pay my sister's tuition" brings the new spirit of Jeffery.

My favorite, though, has to be Quavo's verse. It doesn't have the typical Migos memes, the insane triplet energy, or the ad-lib overload. In the absence of these things, we can really start to understand the true essence of Migos flow. There's little rhythmic moments, like umm... the hesitation between "I hate when we fight" and "She in love with the pipe", and how it contrasts with the "steadiness" of the next few lines, accumulating in the triumphant "birds in the trap sing Brian McKnight", a line so good that Travis named his whole album after it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Song of the Day #335 - Bon Iver - 22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version]

There I find you marked in constellation

Song of the Day is finally back! And, with any sort of luck, we'll be on a fairly regular schedule for the next few months! Hooray, hooray! To kick things off, we're going to start with something fairly new for the blog, genre-wise. Actually, it feels like something fairly new for music in general, genre-wise. I've never really been a huge Bon Iver fan, I'll admit. His rise to indie rock godhood didn't much overlap with my own love with the genre, which was based more in AnCo-style bangers than depressing music recorded alone in the woods. And sure I loved his work with Kanye, but not even that and a 9.5 from Pitchfork (I have always been forthcoming in how, to a pathetic extent, things like this affect me lol) could get me too invested.

But I started hearing some talk about how his new music was moving in a more electronic direction, heavily sample based, lots of vocal distortions... alienating some fans... I saw the bizarre witch housey unicode titles... and I tried to piece these clues together, with my vague memory of hearing the albums, and the points of intimate familiarity e.g. at the start of Kanye's "Lost in the World", tried really hard to imagine what this music might sound like. I arrived at something like... "creamy Gas-style beautiful music essence a positive version of Burial vocals". It wasn't like I could actually imagine it. It was just a vague sense of "it might be like this". Unsure why I focused so much on trying to predict it when I could just hear it.

And then I did! And oh wow! It actually was what I was predicting! And I realized, in that first instant, not just predicting, but actively hoping for! It really did have that "positive drone" style looping base, which I really do believe is a "good end" to music, something where, as we explore the specific psychology of what makes something sound beautiful, and can dive further in to capturing the exact essence of that, extracting it and constructing new sounds entirely out of it, perhaps using intelligent computers to assist us if you want a real futuristic bend.

And it did indeed have his vocals slathered with echoey Burial harmonies and intercut with hauntingly brief samples, pitched way up to alien distance and yet so familiar. But they were positive vocals, warm and happy! The repeating "two, two" might seem a little creepy and BoC-numerological, but it's so easily cast as a mantra, you can feel the effectiveness it has on Justin himself. The brief excerpts of Mahalia Jackson's legendary performance at the Million Man March are long enough to be recognizable, but short enough that the energy you know it encapsulates can be applied to any situation. Like the great vulnerable human triumph in recognizing that "it might be over soon", whispered in from an unknown source, almost Disney-like in its familiarity but distinctly unreal. The voice, one might think, of one's own personal guardian angel.

Apparently it was a voice that came to him during a time of intense anxiety. It is a feeling not of instant resolution, not some revelation that could 180 all your fears, not anything that would invalidate or diminish those feelings. If you just discard your anxieties like unwanted refuse, there's nothing that can be learned from them, they truly become just a waste. They must have come to you for a reason, but that doesn't mean they'll always be there. And that's the real feeling this song conveys, that light at the end of the tunnel, a little dim, a little uncertain, but something. It's a really beautiful feeling. His lyrics are Panda Bear-oblique with even extra mysterious poeticism, but when he hits that "you're goddamn right", this wonderful emotion makes the preceding story immediately clear.

Oh and there's so much other stuff, too! Despite this electronic sampley base, there's such a reverence for acoustics, for the subtleties of the voice and instrumentation. Just listen to that SAXOFON... there's almost a Dean Blunt sort of reverence/distance, where he's presenting the very "idea" of a saxophone, one that is so "standard" that it almost feels cliche, and you feel all your memories of saxophones, from Bill Clinton to Midnight City rush back in a wonderful nostalgic way. This is another major "positive drone" appeal, these sort of nostalgic associations with an isolated sound. And it's just such a wonderful emergence from all the loops and samples, this single unbroken phrase, feeling like proof of the truth of all the feelings within it, of the ability to rise above and create.

This all goes double for the outro, which is, to my understanding, "classic" Bon Iver. It's almost cheeky, isn't it? Like, "hey, I can still do this too"? But it's wonderful, it's the end of the tunnel opening up to sunrise over a beautiful mountainous plain. I think I can see what the big deal with this guy is hahaha. Yeah, I'm pretty excited for this one. We'll probably talk about the other two singles on here in the near future. I think there's a leak of the whole album but it's lo-qual so we'll stay patient. I'm feeling it... this is gonna be the a p4k 9.5+... no, no, I'm just gonna say it: this could be our next p4k 10!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The NEET Diary

Something that got out of hand

Today was my first day of classes in my new program, so I am no longer a NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training). Thus, I am releasing the record I kept during that time of my NEET activity. In the 377 days I was a NEET, it became a 601461 word 1949 page monster that no one should have any reason to want to read. It is longer than Infinite Jest and I do not have any words to express the mixture of intense pride and shame that this fact fills me with. Maybe DFW would, but I don't.

NEETblesse Oblige

I'm not sure exactly what made me start doing this. I think it was more a feeling of responsibility I had based on the opportunity. I had so few responsibilities and I wanted to write a lot: if I couldn't write something like this, what hope did I have? The project had only two real goals:

1. It should be extremely long
2. It should capture the essence of being a NEET

The former was a disgusting success. The latter turned out to be a pretty stupid goal.

In my mind, the ideal of a NEET was someone who lay in bed all day and watched anime and played JRPGs. If you want, you can cast this as a narrative of someone very slowly and sometimes painfully realizing that such a life might not be totally satisfactory. More accurately, you can see it as a dump of all the thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, and opinions I had while also having access to a keyboard. When I was at home, I had it open at all times, and would use it for a sort of running commentary of everything I was watching or reading or listening to. When I traveled, I would write in it on my netbook whenever I had the inclination.

I think overall it was a very therapeutic and rewarding process but just as likely it was maddening and a huge waste of time. Either way you probably shouldn't read it.

If you want to read this:

My advice would be to not read it and instead read my recent ebook Hot Summer. This is not reverse psychology or anything. There's just lots of embarrassing things in this diary and I cringe at the idea of people reading it. There were many times when I was writing in it where I'd think "wow, this is extremely embarrassing, why am I doing this, wasn't I planning on releasing it?" and then I'd think "it's okay, this is so huge, it'll just get buried, and no one will see it". But when I was looking through it again while putting it together, I was like "oh, wait, it's all embarrassing stuff". I think it's also very tedious and often nonsensical.

If you still want to read this:

I suggest skimming liberally, jumping around to random dates, ctrl+Fing things that you might be interested in that I might have written about, and frequently forgetting what you've just read. I mean, I still released it because I do think that there is some stuff in there that is worth reading. I honestly think it contains some of my best work, actually. And I think stumbling upon those worthwhile parts after digging around randomly could be a unique and rewarding experience for the right reader. I'm not exactly sure who the right reader is, and I'm pretty sure there aren't too many of them. But they are probably very similar to me. Writing must be, in part, about doing things for people like you. So here we are.

What's next?

I started working on an index and a table of contents and some other fun stuff (torch-rnn NEET-bot???) that I planned on releasing alongside this, but I didn't finish them in time. I might do a NEET Diary 2.0 sometime later but maybe not. Hopefully Song of the Day will start up again soon. Still working on other fiction projects.