Friday, July 31, 2015

Song of the Day #172 - Burial & Four Tet - Nova


This has almost a million views on Youtube so I guess life isn't so bad. This is two of the best to ever do it playing to their strengths on a collaborative track that sounds both strictly better than the sum of their parts and also nimaginably different from anything you could have expected. It is, afaik, approximately an hour in length, making it the longest song of the day I've ever done. It's also weird in that it requires you to press the replay button ten times while listening to it whereas most songs will play their full length automatically.

Everything in the song is handled masterfully (of course). Like there's drums on a tight two-step and everyone's favorite distorted vocal samples and weird bird samples maybe. And it all has that wonderful serene "shifting" feeling that Burial and Four Tet do so well on their individual tracks. As sense of everything falling just out of place, but still somehow perfect, perhaps an artifact of Burial hand-positioning all his drums... you get "imperfection", in that everything is off, but still perfect realization of someone's ideal. It feels like either a representation of the world or perhaps like nothing else in the world. And all of it is so rich and vibrant, you can feast upon the quality of any and all of these elements, but they're all just framing and driving for the track's godly core.

At 1:28 they introduce it, by swelling this one synth line into this wonderful warm tone, seriously, just listen for that introduction, it's subtle but it's as good as anything I've ever heard. And then the rhythm itself comes in and WOW man what can I even say about it. I listen to this song like at least once a week and it's always because I can just remember the very idea of this rhythm. How did this happen? Where did this come from? Both these guys have had some memorable patterns in their own tracks, of course, often highlighting them in a manner similar to this track. But the only one that comes close to being as memorable is "Moth", another collaborative banger by the two of them. So is it an actual Gotenks sorta thing where the two of them are required? The idea is both engrossingly beautiful but difficult to actualize. How could two people come up with a rhythm like that together? How do you communicate half that idea? How does it come to pass through advice and iteration when it sounds so much like a perfect crystal descending from the infinite sky above?

In fact, how could one person come up with a rhythm like that? And what is a rhythm like that anyways? Let's break it down a bit. I think part of it is the context. Until that point, everything in the song has been sort of indistinct and interweaving. Even the drums feel like they're sort of "part of the environment". And then suddenly, there's this one, loud, distinct sound. Where there has been a lot of glidey notes and indistinct tones, now there is just two, or just a feeling of two. Like I keep tapping little rhythms out or thinking "1-2, 1-2" in my head alongside it, but nothing ever really captures the feeling of it. There's always a sense that the current note is either playing off the previous note or requires a further note to finish it, but by changing your "parsing" of the beat you can alternate which feels like which. I used to try to depict it visually in my notebook a lot, drawing dots on an x-y of time and pitch. There's something haunting and obsessive about it. And then the way it subtly evolves - substituting in a new section that sounds like... warbly angels, maybe, around 2:45, and then expanding on this idea. And then omg the three beats at the end of each repetition, that auditory ellipsis, the way it suddenly changes from a triplet feel to those three beats that feel so cemented onto rhythm (but, like everything else, is shifting)...

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