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!

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