- PJ Harvey, “Big Exit” (Island Records)
- CEO, “White Magic” (Sincerely Yours)
- Hefner, “Good Fruit (Piano Magic remix)” (Too Pure)
- Sistol, “A Better Shore” (Halo Cyan Records)
- Schad Privat, “Body Hotel (Coma remix)” (Firm)
- ANBB, “One” (Raster-Noton)
- Zola Jesus, “Lightsick” (Souterrain Transmissions)
- Oneohtrix Point Never, “Returnal (feat. Antony) (Fennesz remix)” (Editions Mego)
- Richard Davis, “Gone Away” (Safer)
- Force of Nature, “Liberate” (Mule Musiq)
- Seefeel, “As Link” (Warp)
- Superpitcher, “Country Boy” (Kompakt)
- Teengirl Fantasy, “Cheaters” (True Panther)
- Savath y Savalas, “Me voy alone” (Stones Throw Records)
- Pavement, “Shoot the Singer (one sick verse)” (Matador)
- Gold Panda, “You” (Notown)
- Vitalic, “Second Lives” (Citizen Records)
- Delorean, “Stay Close” (Defiance)
- The Fall, “The Knight the Devil and Death” (Cog Sinister)
- Zola Jesus, “Manifest Destiny” (Sacred Bones Records)
- Lucy, “Noedrocca” (Perspectiv)
- Ripperton, “Random Violence” (Green)
- Ron Trent, “Altered States (light city mixx)” (Djaxx Up Beats)
- Ninca Leece, “Feed Me Rainbows” (Thesongsays)
- Thomas Fehlmann, “Darkspark” (Kompakt)
- Saint Etienne, “Hate Your Drug” (Heavenly)
- Console, “By This River” (Disko B)
- Lou Reed, “Ocean” (RCA Victor)
- Donnacha Costello, “Last Train Home” (Poker Flat Recordings)
- Meredith Monk, “Gotham Lullaby” (ECM)
Autechre, Confield (CD, 2001)
An unfortunate consequence of lack of faith is that it’s impossible to experience loss of faith. Valuing the loss of faith is, of course, libertine reasoning, emphasizing the value of belief in negative, but it is how I was thinking at a certain point in time. One doesn’t value faith as much when one has it; but one can’t really appreciate that until it’s gone and you’re outside of that perspective. It’s a tricky thing.
It’s hard to remember now how devoted I was to Autechre in 2001: as much of a completist about them as I was about any band, I had bought several of their CDs twice over, generally a expensive imports, as it seemed impossible that I could be living somewhere with a copy of Amber or Envane. Things like Napster existed in 2001, of course; but they were generally low-bitrate single track affairs, and over an Italian dialup connection it seemed like it took forever. And Autechre were as important to me as any band – the word is wrong, but “group” also has problems. I remember stumbling out of the Let’s Go office at dawn, or what seemed like dawn, to pick up the embargoed import version of LP5 the morning the guys at Tower Records said it would be available; I remember playing the second half of EP7 over and over again on headphones my first summer in Rome. Confield was the first full-length to be released after that.
Autechre hit that solipsistic sweet spot of being abstract but emotional at the same time; it was headphone music. There are all the affordances of dance music, but without the troublesome element of other people. This went all the way through: track titles were computerese, some sort of remixed English, and the graphics were abstract (or, with Amber, too perfect to seem real). The sound then was unrecognizable: it didn’t sound like anything. Now it sounds like plenty of other things; it sounds like synthesizers and drum machines, like dance music, if the dance music wasn’t particularly good at being dance-y and dignified that approach by saying it just wasn’t interested in dancing. Maybe it’s the sense of pure abstraction: there weren’t lyrics, and interviews with the two fellows behind the music didn’t really provide anything. The song titles are signifiers, though there’s not very much that can be read from them beside a love of technological obfuscation. Without sounds from recognizable instruments (for the most part) or much sense of how it might be made, the listener could hang anything he – it’s almost always a “he” – wanted on the music.
There have been a number of Autechre albums since then; I know I bought at least the next two, and maybe the third, though that looks less familiar. Another one just came out, and I dutifully listened to it, though I didn’t love it. The bloom came off the rose with Confield: I was disappointed with this record and never quite managed to get my enthusiasm back. Part of this was how important LP5 and EP7 had been: expectations build. There’s also the problem, of course, of what I wanted from the musicians: both to stay the same and yet to do something new, which isn’t really a nice place to put someone. Files calling themselves Confield had been floating around before the album was actually released; I dutifully downloaded them and liked them before finding out that they were fake: to the trash they went. After the actual album came out, I noticed that I’d liked the fake better than the real; that fake version seems to have vanished into the Internet, though I assume it’s still around somewhere.
Listening to it now, I wonder how many times I actually listened to this album. I expect that I listened to it over and over again on first getting, hoping that something would click and that I’d like it: that was something one did when there was an actual investment of capital in a record, when you had to justify why you’d spent L39,000 – is that number, the one I remember, really what I was paying for CDs then? – to find something worthwhile in that expenditure: music-buying was a strange thing. But I wonder if I ever pulled this CD out after 2001; it’s entirely possible that it’s sat in the CD-case in which I brought it from Rome since then. I can’t think of what would have impelled me to pull it out. Some of the sounds are nice (the first half of “Pen Expers,” for example, the metalic clanging in “Parhelic Triangle” that’s almost chiming), but the the rhythms remain arbitrary (the second half of “Pen Expers”) and don’t seem to justify their arbitrariness to my ears; there’s not a lot of melody, and one wonders whether the rhythms are entirely random. Nor is there much sense of drama, though there’s a hint of that in “Eidetic Cassein.” My taste in electronic music after 2001 tended towards the more regularly rhythmic: techno and house rather than this. I’d probably like more straightforward remixes of this, but I don’t know that anyone ever really bothered. A beatless version of this record might be very nice.
It’s interesting looking at dates now to realize how compressed the timeframe of my love of Autechre was: I would have bought my first record by them in 1996, and the romance would end in 2001, about five years. It seems much longer: maybe a lot was happening then. Up until this, there’d been something thrilling about the strangeness of each release: Autechre records didn’t sound like anything else. This one sounds like an Autechre record: but an Autechre record where they’re trying to be vexatious by not providing melodies. It’s a noisy record, like all Autechre records; but it’s not quite regimented noise, like the previous ones: rather, it seems to be noises for their own sake, rather than for any purpose. It’s hard to know what this record is for: it’s not something that can be casually listened to, as the unhinged rhythms keep jumping out, but it’s not quite danceable. Most of the tracks last six minutes when they would have been better left at two. Maybe it’s the problem of where the scene was then; even then, they had plenty of followers: I remember Funkstörung, but there must have been plenty of others. Aphex Twin had stopped being interesting by this point; the clicks & cuts aesthetic of Mille Plateaux and the rest of the Germans was clearly artier. With the Internet, it became very easy to find really strange things – this might be one of the dominant aesthetics of the past ten years – and the familiarly strange is left being just familiar.
Autechre played in the Brancaleone centro sociale some time near the end of the summer of 2001: I remember thinking that I really should go, as I’d never seen them live & they were supposed to be amazing. I didn’t end up going, being too disappointed in this album. Also, it’s worth noting, laptop shows at that point in time were by and large terrible. I am disappointed with myself for not going: probably Brancaleone itself would have been more interesting than the show. But the idea of waiting around with a bunch of other Autechre fans for something that we all enjoyed in solitude: that seemed like it might be going too far.
- Bruno Spoerri, “Lilith – Singing in the Dark” (Finders Keepers)
- Donnacha Costello, “Leaving Berlin” (Poker Flat Recordings)
- Zola Jesus, “Night” (Sacred Bones)
- The Fall, “Bonkers in Phoenix” (Permanent Records)
- Rachel Unthank & The Winterset, “Sea Song” (EMI)
- Bat For Lashes, “Horse and I” (Parlophone)
- Patrice Bäumel, “Clair” (Get Physical)
- Riley Reinhold, “I Remember (feat. Cosmic Sandwich)” (Trapez Schallplatten)
- Oni Ayhun, “OAR003-B” (Oni Ayhun)
- Philip Glass Ensemble, “Knee 5” (Elektra)
- Snowpony, “Snow White” (Radioactive)
- Gui Boratto, “Azzurra (it’s not the same version)” (Kompakt)
- Ana, “Shift (Force of Nature remix)” (Compactsounds)
- Tracey Thorn, “Oh, The Divorces!” (Strange Feeling)
- The Bionaut, “I Wish I Was Tied to Bertha” (Harvest)
- Gene Farris, “This Is My Religion” (Soma Quality Recordings)
- Aufgang, “Channel 7 (edit)” (Infiné)
- Ewan Pearson vs M.A.N.D.Y., “No Stoppin Love” (white label)
- Tensnake, “Coma Cat” (Permanent Vacation)
- Moby, “Mobility (aquamix)” (Instinct Records)
- Orbital, “I Wish I Had Duck Feet” (FFRR)
- Anton Kubikov & Maxim Milutenko, “Lady Delay” (Lo Recordings)
- Pixies, “Motorway to Roswell” (4AD)
- Life Without Buildings, “Love Trinity” (Trifekta)
- Matias Aguayo, “Menta latte” (Kompakt)
- Vybz Kartel, “Yuh Love” (Mixpak)
- Benoit & Sergio, “What I’ve Lost” (The Song Says)
- Lali Puna, “Remember?” (Morr Music)
- My Brightest Diamond, “Dragonfly (Murcof remix)” (Asthmatic Kitty)
- Bat For Lashes, “Siren Song” (Parlophone)
- Contriva, “The Things You Said” (Monika)
- Mint, “Phonogam” (Profan)
- The Golden Palominos, “Gun/Little Suicides (brown stain walls, red jelly corners)” (Restless Records)
- Pawel, “Kramnik” (Dial)
- Patrice Bäumel, “Shower of Ice” (Trapez)
- Stargazer, “Deeper (Ewan Pearson ping pong mix)” (Ideal)
Stereolab, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (CD, 1993)
This CD, which arrived in the package that M. sent me a couple months back, is one of the oldest that I still have: I bought this in high school. It was, I’m fairly certain, used: CD prices then were exorbitantly high for high school students. I’m not sure when I would have bought it: summer 1994, maybe. I’m not sure where I would have bought it: probably a used CD store in Rockford? I remember bits of this (“Crest”) going through my head when I was working as a banquet server/busboy, which would have been my senior year of high school. This was probably the first Stereolab CD I bought – there’s the off chance that I bought Mars Audiac Quintet, from 1994, first, though I didn’t like that one as much as this one & sold it at some point. (Later I reconsidered this; I think I may have bought Mars Audiac Quintet three separate times, but I don’t remember what would have happened to make that be the case; in any case, I don’t think that I still have a copy.) Mars Audiac Quintet would have been in Spin or The Onion or whatever I was reading then to get ideas about music, but I liked Transient Random-Noise Bursts enough that I never sold it.
Stereolab’s been around for so long now – this CD is almost old enough to buy cigarettes! – that it’s hard to remember how strange they seemed at first: the constructivist red and yellow gear on the CD, the back cover text that seemed like it was from some weird hi-fi 1950s, the “æ” in Laetitia Sadier’s name, the tagline “Art is a science having more than seven variables,” ready for scribbling on desks. The front-cover graphic, a stylus on a record, abstracted almost to the point of being unrecognizable: certainly at that point I wasn’t attuned to design, but I knew that this didn’t look like anything else I was used to seeing. The booklet was also puzzling: photographs of electrical machinery that looked like it was from the 1950s with what look like JPEG-style graininess before the fact, and sample credits to people I’d never heard of but who would quickly become hipster touchstones.
The sound of this when you listen to it is still strange: from the start, there’s a lo-fi fuzz to it. Then repetition: later Neu! and Kraftwerk, but at that point the krautrock tradition was entirely unfamiliar. Music with synthesizers was frowned upon as being frivolous: there were guitars and bass here, which fit into what we understood as indie, but this was something different: there was pop here, in “Pack Yr Romantic Mind,” but “yr” was spelled in the Sonic Youth way (derived, maybe, from Wyndham Lewis’s Blast?) which made it safe; a growling guitar bridge suggested that they could tear off into something fierce if they wanted to. And the lyrics: some of them were on the back cover; some of them were in French. Most were, again, repetitious; “Pack Yr Romantic Mind”’s read, in full
The greater is the beauty,
The profounder is the stain,
Significant of the forbidden is transgressed in eroticism.
Now one thinks “oh, Bataille,” but then it was hard to know what to make of that: Sadier’s voice was lovely, the English was choppy, one wondered what their being Marxists meant. There were not any Marxists in rural Illinois. It did sound nice, though. Now I understand why “Pause” is described as “Proust song” (“Retrieve the past / like a prayer / Bringing it back / Into the light”); at the time, this reference, like most of the others (“Ondioline,” “One Note Samba,” Gershon Kingsley, “Farfisa”), was opaque, something that might be tracked down. Wikipedia makes listening to this CD very different.
There’s a brutal drive to many of the songs on this album (the ends of “Golden Ball” and “Analogue Rock,” the entirety of “Crest”), and I think that’s what I responded to first: there’s an easy appeal to it. And of course the centerpiece of the album, the 18-minute “Jenny Ondioline”: there’s the same drive, the feeling that something could go on and on, which was very strange to someone whose idea of a long song was “Free Bird,” frequently played entire on the local classic rock station. The lyrics of that weren’t printed on the back; partially buried under the wall of sound, you can make out something about not caring if the Fascists have won, socialism still needs to build. It’s political, but the political sense comes as much from the drive of the music as it does from the lyrics. It winds down about seven minutes in, then starts back up again, without vocals, with more guitar. Vocals return: “take heed and lift up the struggle,” but again it’s hard to make out exactly what’s being sung. My politics when I was in high school were nothing if not incoherent, but there was something viscerally appealing about this. So much of my drive during high school was essentially reactionary, concentrating on leaving, being anywhere but where I was: this fit in perfectly. I don’t tend to like long songs, but this could go on forever: it’s that perfect.
For my college interview, I was asked to list three significant books; I put down something by Salinger, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Bernardo Atxaga’s Obabakoak, at the time, I thought, the only Basque novel, which I found at the public library. In my interview, I talked about that book at length – nobody, of course, wants to hear a 17-year-old describe Salinger. In retrospect, I suspect that book had a lot to do with my getting into college: I’d found something strange, and I’d made it my own. Stereolab – especially this record – fits into the same category: an entryway. After arriving at college, I dutifully tracked down the rest of Atxaga’s work, and bought his new material when it came out; but it never had the same resonance for me.
It’s hard for me to say if I ever loved Stereolab. They were too hard to pin down: you could get what Pavement was about without too much trouble, for example, but Stereolab was a little too exotic, seeming to operate in some other plane entirely. I still like Stereolab, though, and dutifully buy their new records when I come across them; when finally I didn’t buy Sound Dust, I felt decidedly guilty. That was, of course, a mistake.
Ordered by play count, only one track per artist, limited to one hour. iTunes evidently started recording date added to its metadata in October 2003, so the accuracy of this is limited.
- Carsten Jost, “Juliane (Lawrence remix)” (Ladomat 2000)
- Superpitcher, “More Tomorrow” (Kompakt)
- Roy Montgomery, “London Is Swinging By His Neck (feat. Kirk Lake)” (Rocket Girl)
- Leandro Fresco, “Amor internacional” (Kompakt)
- Oxtongue, “Delight (Benjamin Diamond’s this emotion remix)” (Kompakt Pop)
- Heiko Voss, “I Think About You (Adolf Noise remix)” (Kompakt Pop)
- Tocotronic, “Hi Freaks (Superpitcher’s beautiful freaks mix)” (L’Age D’Or)
- Markus Guentner, “Regensburg 1” (Kompakt)
- Bubba Sparxxx, “Nowhere” (Interscope)
Ordered by play count, only one track per artist, limited to one hour. Results are getting more and more sketchy as things get older:
- Xploding Plastix, “Sunset Spirals (feat. Sarah Cracknell) (Rune Lindbæk remix)” (Columbia)
- Leandro Fresco, “Cero uno” (Kompakt)
- Dettinger, “Oasis 1” (Kompakt)
- The MFA, “The Difference It Makes” (Border Community)
- The Clientele, “Boring Postcard” (Acuarela Discos)
- The Orb, “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Center Of The Ultraworld (loving you)” (Strange Fruit)
- Ghost Cauldron, “Are You Conscious?” (Studio !K7)
- Borneo & Sporenburg, “Boys” (Ladomat 2000)
Ordered by play count, only one track per artist, limited to one hour:
- Round Two, “New Day (club vocal mix feat. Andy Caine)” (Main Street Records)
- Gustavo Cerati, “Alma” (BMG)
- Egoexpress, “Aranda (Lawrence remix)” (Ladomat 2000)
- Lawrence, “Swap (Carsten Jost dub)” (Ladomat 2000)
- Silvania, “Otro mundo en el mundo” (Ware)
- Saint Etienne, “Teenage Winter” (Sanctuary Records)
- Benjamin Diamond, “Inner Cycle (part 1 & 2)” (Immer)
- Ellen Allien, “Your Body Is My Body (Kiki’s body trip remix)” (BPitch Control)