Monday, February 12

Dreams Made Flesh

Sam Rosenthal, founder of Projekt records and leader of goth/darkwave group Black Tape For A Blue Girl, has a new ambient solo album out under the name As Lonely As Dave Bowman. The music was inspired by his son's love of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Well, nobody ever went wrong exploiting my love for that film. In a recent interview, Rosenthal described the music as sounding "like what you would here if you were a stowaway in the nuclear reactor of the Discovery’s motor."

Mike McGonigal, author of the new 33 1/3 book on My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, becomes not the first person to liken the band's extended guitar drone during the live rendition of "You Made Me Realise" to the sound of sticking your head inside a jet engine. In this case I can honestly say I was there, and he's right.

I remember reading a review several years ago that described Microstoria, the collaboration between Oval and Mouse On Mars's Jan St. Werner, as sounding like being inside a computer's hard drive. Another review described it as the sound your computer makes when it's switched off and dreaming. I might conflate and enhance the two descriptions and say Microstoria sounds like what you would hear if you were a stowaway inside a dreaming HAL 9000.

I'm sure you've heard this "It sounds like being inside a..." metaphor used plenty of times before. It seems like the more amorphous and less structured a piece of music becomes, the more people reach for structural metaphors to pin it down. No doubt plenty of ambient musicians would describe their works as attempts to create a sort of space. On one end of the spectrum, this might mean a mental space. At the other extreme the metaphor becomes more concrete and sometimes specifically architectural. The relationship between ambient soundscapes and architecture was perfectly clear several years ago with Caipirinha's Architettura series, in which Deupree/Ysatis, Tetsu Inoue, and David Toop took on the buildings of Toyo Ito, Nicholas Grimshaw, and Itsuko Hasegawa. (Has anyone heard these albums? I haven't.)

Last night, I finally got around to pulling down a couple of Microstoria CDs and giving them a listen on my new-ish headphones. I'd been wanting to do this for a while, thinking that the headphones would do serious justice to the detail and texture of the music. While listening, I was thinking not about how it sounded like I was inside a computer, but that it sounded like a tiny computer was inside my head. Headphones will do that--make sounds feel like they're coming from the center of your head. This places the music into a completely different context. Instead of transforming my immediate surroundings into an imaginary space, my body became the vessel for the music.

6 comments:

Contrasoma said...

I'm glad to hear there's a "Loveless" 33 1/3 book. I've only read the "Unknown Pleasures" and "Sign 'O' The Times" ones; both excellent for different reasons.

Bruce said...

Well, I wouldn't say that MBV book is great, but you should probably read it at least for informational purposes.

I do need to read that Joy Division book myself.

Bruce said...

The JD book had loads of session/production info I'd never come across anywhere else - Ott does his homework (and I like the hook that he uses for his blog). I certainly don't know much about MBV outside of the records, so I'll keep an eye open.

Michael said...

I was at an MBV show in Minneapolis and experienced pretty much the same sensation. It was the combination of loudness plus flashing strobes that really did my head in. Fucking great show though...

Brian B. said...

I've heard several of the Architectura series, specifically the Inoue, Toop, and Deupree albums and found that the discrete concepts of the albums were far more interesting than their execution. Inoue's in particular sounded to be more of a process piece, but if random coagulations of tones is your thing (this was particularly structureless), I'd say go for it. It had a river-like quality, but I did not find it all that engaging.

BB :)

Bruce said...

BB,

the discrete concepts of the albums were far more interesting than their execution.

Ah, that's what I was afraid of. I think I'd rather just know that an artist is interested in and influenced by architecture than have them actually make a concept album about it.