Monday February 28 2022
Three pieces I’ve been working on for a while—years in one case—came out in the space of a few days: Surrealism, J Dilla, and Odetta. I’m finishing up another piece about speakers and how we listen to music, and that’s been going for a bit. Several years of thinking and listening have led me to suspect that my thinking has been a bit primitive. Music may not always matter in music, if we’re talking about recordings.
When I spend time in the make-believe jazz kissa of my living room, with my too-long playlist of jazz recordings, I hear certain records and musicians doing their thing over and over. When I spent two years with Odetta’s music, I lost track of the songs. The records faded and what emerged was a person, a force who made choices and had tendencies she couldn’t escape.
I think people react badly to music criticism because they’ve become acquainted with musicians through records and don’t see a point in picking apart the text surrounding someone they love. Music is just something musicians wear. Once you know what a person loves to do, listening to their music is simply a way of spending time with them. You don’t bail on your friends because they go on too much about HR at lunch.
Also, the people who go to jazz kissas and listen to one Sonny Stitt album a hundred times are sitting in a room roughly the size of the studio where the album was recorded. The musicians are negotiating life with each other, in real time, getting along because they have to. Their decision to help each other is as loud as any note they play, and this, in turn, changes the jazz kissa into a place where people help each other, even if they don’t speak. (Sometimes you can talk in a kissa, but it’s mostly discouraged.)
R&B god El DeBarge doing a Tiny Desk Concert at home? This is fifteen minutes of bliss, just DeBarge’s voice and keyboard (mostly Rhodes-y sounds) and a guitar player. If you love D’Angelo but don’t know El, waste no time.
Completely sick ‘70s Moroccan single available for download on the MusicRepublic blog—voice, violin, and drums, all of it tweaking. The MusicRepublic SoundCloud page is pretty reliable, if you want to hear non-American music from not now.
Sheriff Lindo and the Hammer’s Ten Dubs That Shook The World is a dub album from 1988 that I know little about, beyond it being made by a person named Anthony Maher form Australia. I found this description on fusetron: “Superb 13 Aussie dub tracks from 1981 to 1988 by Loop Orchestra member Sheriff Lindo aka Anthony Maher. Surprisingly almost home recordings, under the style of heavy roots reggae but experimental also industrial sense. Echo, delay, phasers, ring modulators, full on!” It sounds both legit and bonkers. Maher has a great touch and he’s still out there, I think. Ride again, Sheriff!
The legacy of J Dilla is real; it is not just a projection of his fanbase. Two very distinct producers sound like relatives of Dilla right now. aNTOJE and Vegyn are both making a lively, strange machine music. A great deal of it has that split apart, limping sense of time that I think Dilla gave us. They don’t do it in similar ways, but they feel linked to each other, and to Dilla.
This typically precise Elizabeth Schambelan Bookforum piece from 2014 is a review of a book about PTSD and Vietnam. The focus is “berserking,” the frame of mind that characterizes both excellence in battle and a psychic disabling due to that battle. This bit stuck with me:
I’ve returned to the original version of “Timeless,” as performed by John Abercrombie, Jan Hammer, and Jack DeJohnette, hundreds of times. If I get to choose my deathbed music, it will be this. I only just discovered a live version of “Timeless,” performed by Abercrombie and Ralph Towner in 1984. (Also new to me—this Four Tet track that turns “Timeless” into garage? Very strong. And it’s 20 years old? Jesus.) Towner’s acoustic 12-string and Abercrombie’s electric lay out a different resting tone for the piece, and it works just as well as the synth and guitar arrangement of this original. This music puts a word like “beautiful” into lactic burn.
Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus is finally on streaming platforms. If you want to know what was absolutely hitting 25 years ago, this is it. Anyone paying attention then is unsurprised now that Run The Jewels has taken up an important spot. I am, however, begging music supervisors to stop using this one song.
Time Is Away will always get love here, and their new episode is a quiet burner. A few weeks ago, they posted their second John Berger collage, using Berger’s words about French peasants as narration. Their latest is called “Pig Earth Dub,” which reduces Berger’s voice to a detail. What comes through is one of their most sparkling ghost dances yet, saxophone and synth to the front. I would love to hear these two produce dub versions of bands like caroline and Still House Plants. Decisions!