ISAN, Salle d’ISAN (EP, 2001)
Somebody’s family had a house in New Hampshire – was it really New Hampshire? one of those New England states where there’s a lot of winter – and I remember being in a large house and playing this late at night there. Why would I have done that? From this distance it seems like a horrific breach of good taste; I remember being upset at a party a few years later when a boorish friend of a friend brought his own music, terrible middlebrow indie, and started playing it, noting how he disapproved of the band’s politics (which really were the least offensive thing about them). Rochefoucauld says something about this, of course.
It’s not the worst thing to play late at night in someone’s cabin in the woods, I guess, but this is much more headphone music than anything else. This CD goes on for seventeen minutes; there are six tracks, but only the fourth, “Fullen Brimm,” sticks, because that has a much better bassline than any of the others (which seem to lack bass entirely). It’s almost menacing: things are layered on top, there’s some very delicate dubbiness, there’s a nice tension. The track before it, utterly forgettable, is named “Disruptive Elephant,” which I like; you always wonder if things have been mislabeled. I always wanted to like the other tracks more but couldn’t find anything to latch on to. With a CD, if you play one track over and over again you feel like you’re doing something wrong. Listened to now, the other tracks seem to verge on Tangerine Dream-style new age; there’s a little crunch that makes things uncomfortable, but this is overly pretty.
In Rome, I’d been listening to a lot of American indie; when I moved to New York, I was listening to much more wordless electronic music, the BjÃ¶rk album of that year being the fulcrum between the two. I wonder why? In New York, terrible indie music was all around – the Strokes and the White Stripes were in their ascendency – and it didn’t quite feel special. Electroclash was more entertaining, if obviously ridiculous, though that didn’t really seem like something one listened in a recorded form. Maybe my turn was a reaction against the static of the city. There’s not much public space in New York; when one arrives without money, there aren’t that many places one can go. Loitering is frowned upon. Thus, headphones.