Archive for July 4th, 2010

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Heavy Rotation 51: Are You Still With Me? Edition

July 4, 2010

At this point, we’ve done nearly a year’s worth of Heavy Rotations. And you all have been simply fantastic to preach music to. But there has to have been a handful of times when you listened to a track I’ve recommended and thought, “The hell?” Maybe even more than a handful. Perhaps this happens quite frequently but you’re all so worried about me and my obviously unhinged brain that you cover up your dismay with streams of compliments and superlatives.

This volume of the Heavy Rotation is an attempt to explain exactly what the hell is wrong with me.

As you’ve heard so many kids say before, “I’m not like the other kids.” Something broke way back in the day. I never was really betrothed to verse-chorus-verse structures. That went away with the acclimation to industrial music. I never really liked over-production or skillful instrument usage. I was more interested in new noises and ritualistic abuse of common musical references.

My brain says, “We’ve all heard enough rock. Enough techno. Enough whatever, done perfectly and repeatedly. What else have you got?”

This is what I found. These are all formative tracks (and one late arrival) that left my musical psyche horribly mutated. I’ve still got a keen ear for beautifully done music and catchy tunes. But this is the shit it must fight through. And this is the shit I turn down before the neighbors can hear. This is the music I don’t introduce to the new in-laws.

There a few things that any one person can truly call their own, especially in terms of culture. But these are MINE.

I do not expect anyone to walk away from this feeling they’ve found a new “go-to” track for their next social event or even hear anything they’d want to hear again. But god help me, I love these songs.

I thank you in advance for indulging me. I also apologize in advance for any damage done to your stereo equipment or relationships with friends and neighbors.

[Right-click to download tracks. All other links open in a new window.]

Easier listening found here:
The Heavy Rotation Archives

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Upside Down.mp3
This is their first single, which I encountered on their Barbed Wire Kisses compilation. It’s an ear-bleeding statement of intent, in which William and Jim Reid pretty much shove their guitars right through their amps, producing a wall of feedback that steamrolls anything Jimi Hendrix had ever done into an unrecognizable white-noise puddle.

Underneath the racket, which one critic memorably described as “a chainsaw in a hurricane,” there’s a hummable melody and some suitably bleak lyrics. But its the banshee-scream of the feedback that acts like a siren song to me, compelling me to place my head between the speakers until every synapse joins in.

And it probably explains the next tune quite a bit. (Still here? I’ll explain…)

Josh Wink – Higher State of Consciousness (Original Tweakin Acid Funk Mix).mp3
An influential breakbeat/acid house classic, featuring the tortured tones of a Roland bass emulator cut adrift of its factory settings and being made to do unpleasant things to sine waves.

Josh Wink allows it to ride a bit of a groove first before gradually winding it all up into a pulse of piercing tones, the likes of which had only been hinted at by early acid house pioneers like Hardfloor and DJ Pierre. An all-around celebration of making your machine(s) say, “Yes,” rather than simply taking their word for it when they say they shouldn’t.

If I hadn’t already been open to skull-piercing treble tones (thanks Jesus & Mary Chain!), I would never have gotten on board with this one.

Moby – Thousand.mp3
As long as we’re still within arrestable distance of club music, here’s techno popstar Moby, who plays around with his drum machine and ends up in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Fastest Song.”

For everyone who only knows him from Play onward may be surprised by his prolific days as a techno producer/DJ in which he produced several underground techno hits during the formative years of the American rave scene. Some of his best work is collected on Rare:The Collected B-Sides 1989-1993, from which this track is taken.

Thousand relies on little more than an accelerating beat and a parallel diva sample to get the job done. Moby takes the tune around the block a couple of times, opening it all the way up on the straightaways.

Should anyone really do this sort of thing, just because the technology will let them? I doubt it. But some people just have to. Moby is one of them. Should anybody call this “good,” let alone “great”? Of course not. But somebody still will. And that person will most likely be me.

The “Thousand” refers to the beats per minute.

Lightning Bolt – Two Towers.mp3
This nuisance of a band joined my intensely personal (and carefully obscured) heavy rotation thanks to my blog partner RF (who’s back, by the way). He shot this over to me along with a selection of other stuff ranging from the tuneful to the aggravating.

And this is where Lightning Bolt stand. They’re a two-person “band,” one playing a bass guitar and the other, a jazz trap set. What do they sound like? It depends on when you ask. They rarely sound like Primus. They don’t even really sound like their closest analogue, Death From Above 1979.

They sound like a fucked-up thrash band most of the time, but they run some amazing bass-propelled grooves, over which the masked drummer screams unintelligibly. (I can see the line forming now, he said tongue planted firmly in cheek, etc…) This track starts out like the most annoying hardcore track ever, with the guitarist wanking all over the place for about a minute in the most show-offy, tuneless manner possible. (Fingers on the “Next” button…)

But at :55, the track takes off. The song coheres and races off to the next transition, grinding and abrading the edges of a lockstep groove, which falls apart now and then, but seamlessly reassembles and continues, yes, rocking, believe it or not.

By all appearances this should suck. But it does not. Not to me. Not to RF. Not to dozens of fans worldwide. It’s brutal without having the decency to at least be efficient. Seven minutes is a lot to take. Unless you’re me. Or RF. I’m used to seven minutes of minimally changing grooves. I love techno. RF loves him some metal, so he’s used to being smacked around for extended periods as well.

It works like a noisy-ass mantra. It’s a drunken god of war parading through your headspace. It’s all so wrong it has to be right.

Skinny Puppy – Download.mp3
Had enough? Well, there’s just one more. And it’s only 11 minutes long. (Cue insane laughter and Persian cat-stroking.)

This is from a last-gasp effort by Skinny Puppy, Canada’s answer to Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. This is before they imploded. But not much before. Last Rights (from which this is taken) is the sound of self-destruction coupling with drug-fueled paranoia and unfocused rage.

This is the last track from the death knell (although they did reform, but for the sake of this post, we’ll pretend they never did). It’s more Cevin Key’s (keybs, percussion) baby than Nivek Ogre’s (lead singer). It’s an incoherent mess of samples and loops, driveby radio signals, reversed and pitch-shifted vocal snippets, random button mashing and good old-fashioned dial-spinning.

Operates much like Cevin Key’s post-Skinny Puppy work, functioning better as nightmarish soundscape than actual tuneage. Hell, he even named his next project after this track. It’s quite a bit to take, all this cacophony. So I’m going to do you a favor.

I don’t really care for the front half of this track myself. I find it to be pointlessly self-indulgent, much like I find most of Download’s (the band) work. Instead of subjecting yourself to something even I wouldn’t put up with, move on to where I think the track redeems itself.

Spin the virtual dial forward to 5:18. You’ll hear the last fading sonics from the first half meeting the most malevolent selection of bass tones which follow it until the end. They pan and sweep and haunt. They pulse and throb, attack and decay.

That is what I love. 5+ minutes of overdriven, mildly distorted bass lines, sweeping through the headphones and into the most damaged recesses of my personal tastes. It’s like hell’s theremin.

I love these sounds. You can’t make them with rock instruments. You have to work pretty hard to make them with banks of electronics. You have to work even harder to ride this sort of limited idea for 5-1/2 glorious minutes.

[Want a track removed? Would you care to see my blogger’s license? Could I interest you in a new set of speakers/ears? Email me: 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

-CLT

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