Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Helms - Robots Are Great, But Are We Ready For Them to Dance on Their Own? - From the CD McCarthy

Helms McCarthy CD cover
For a long time now I've been wondering--we've ALL been wondering --what the fuck is postrock, and you know what? I'm still no closer to knowing than I was when I heard Spiderland for the first time.

But knowledge comes in little pieces, and it was today while listening to Helms and their jiggy little tune about robots who dance that I found myself able to formulate Rastronomicals' Critical Theory of Dialectical Postrock Dynamics, which says that
 Postrock shall fall into two forms: the noodly and the propulsive 
Upon closer inspection of this postulate I had wrought, I'm seeing that my new Critical Theory relies on the previously developed Second Axiom of Invariate Musical Intensity, to wit:
 noodly is bad and propulsive is good*
Of course, this is not to say that music outside the postrock realm might not be noodly AND propulsive (witness your better King Crimson tunes), or indeed, that some music might be neither noodly NOR propulsive. [Most of what is called ambient--as well as the entire Sunn O))) catalog--seems to fit the bill as far as that last goes].

Nope, just sayin', that while a lot of the postrock that crosses our desk here at La Historia World Headquarters seems to spin in place goofily like the propeller on the head of that Quisp cereal dude, this Helms music is pretty kinetic stuff. This song's got torque, if you will: the ratio of energy expended to new ground covered is pretty low.

And of course it's got the robot thing going on, as well. I know that Calla's "Truth About Robots" and Bailterspace's "Robot World" are also floating around in my iLibrary, but those guys, as cool as they are, don't have their 'bots doing the terpsichore. What this really makes me think of is Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life, one of the cooler webcomics I've come across recently. While the author pretty much tells us that his robots don't in fact dance, they DO have wanderlust, ennui, erogenous zone circuits, and most importantly, a Bohemian Drive.

Nine Planets is providing the creepiest possible answer to the question Helms has asked: that it won't matter once the humans are gone, anyway.

Helms - McCarthy - 10 - Robots Are Great, But Are We Ready For Them To Dance On Their Own.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for 6 weeks (or more) (Right click and save as target)

File under: Postrock, Metal Machine Music

*No shit, huh? But it's important to understand your assumptions. (Return)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brian Eno - "Dead Finks Don't Talk" From the Album Here Come The Warm Jets

Here Come the Warm Jets album coverThey call Boing Boing "a directory of wonderful things," and when the mods haven't recursively disappeared up their own rectums while on some arcane and cranky civlib/Open Source diatribe, the site truly *is* full of those promised wonderful things.

A few days ago, I spent the day contemplating digital physics and the Ultra Deep Field; today, it is the marvelous Translation Party to which the bloggers at Boing Boing have directed my attention.

Translation Party is basically Fun with Babel Fish, repeated over and over again. The user inputs a phrase, the embedded script translates it into Japanese, then back into English again, then back to Japanese, then back to English . . . until a stasis is achieved, where two consecutive results are the same.

And the results are exactly what you'd expect, like Dutch Schultz' last words, like the most fractured bits from Ulysses, like the old game of telephone taken to the umpteenth power, like those instructions that come with the cheap Chinese toys.

The comments that followed the post invariably were of the form, look at the clever quote I submitted! And look at what the page spat out in response! Things eventually got to the point where someone had input the chorus to "Every Breath You Take."

Well, fuck that Sting shit, I thought. What we need to do here is to think big, and big in this case means running the entirety of Eno's "Dead Finks Don't Talk" through this Party machine.

It can be risky to think big like this, I know. And it's not, to be honest, the way I'm normally used to thinking. But if you can't bring yourself to take part in protracted silliness in reference to an Eno song, just what would it take?

Alright, don't answer that. 'Cause I'm not gonna do "Close To The Edge."

Anyway, let us proceed with the jollity. If it is not immediately apparent, Eno's original and somewhat surreal lyrics (or at least the lyrics as interpreted by the blessed acolytes at Enoweb) are on the left, the hilarious (and even surreal-er) output from Translation Party on the right.

Oh cheeky cheeky
Oh naughty sneaky
You're so perceptive
And I wonder how you knew.

But dead finks don't walk too well (oh no)
A bad sense of direction (oh no)
And so they stumble round in threes (oh no)
Such a strange collection.

Oh, you headless chicken
Can those poor teeth take so much kicking?
You're always so charming
As you make your way up here.

And dead finks don't dress too well
No discrimination
To be a zombie all the time
Requires such dedication.

Oh please sir, will you let it go by,
'Cos I failed both tests with my legs both tied
In my place the stuff is all there
I've been ever so sad for a very long time.

My my, they wanted the works:
Can you this? and that? I never got a letter back
More fool me, bless my soul
More fool me, bless my soul.

Oh perfect masters
They thrive on disasters
They all look so harmless
Till they find their way up here.

But dead finks don't talk too well
They've got a shaky sense of diction
It's not so much a living hell
It's just a dying fiction.
Oh cheeky cheeky
Oh naughty tricks
In the morning,
Please contact us.

However, frequently dead finks) (if the walk
Poor sense of direction (or not)
,) The first three races, this strange collection
Of travel (whether or not.

Now, I am the head cavity of the chicken
You can get information for kicks.
This movement
Is always attractive.

Dress Finks,
Differentiation and death
Focus on the zombies.

Oh please, you can follow it,
'Cause I failed to test the connection of both of his
Legs For me, very sad,
This is a long time.

This is my work:?
What is this? I have a letter
Also, my best wishes to my soul,
Bless my soul fool fool

Successful disaster
Please see how
To control.

Shino and Shika, not in words,
To choose death finks stable
It is a living hell,
Not being killed [is not killed] in fiction.

Pretty sure this exercise would have been worth it for the

Dress Finks,
Differentiation and death
Focus on the zombies.
quatrain alone.

It's all pretty strange, but perhaps the strangest part is how the parentheses get unhooked and thrown all over the place. It ends up looking like concrete poetry, or like particularly bad prog-rock lyrics.

For those looking to replicate my results, I input the song by couplets, "Oh perfect masters They thrive on disasters" all together, for example.

Sometimes there will be no stasis reached. You get instead an endless two-part loop, the Japanese translator returning one thing, and the English tranlsator returning the other ad infinitum until the script cuts the ribbon. From the comments at Boing Boing, it happens fairly frequently, but it only happened once during the compiling here. In the last line, the cyber-translators couldn't agree whether it was "not being killed" or "is not killed."

Eno was never one to put too much stock into his lyrics. He often arrived at them randomly, he frequently sought to obscure them, and in the end, he quit rock and roll because he thought the importance placed on them was so distorted.

So something makes me think that if Eno was aware of the Translation Party, and of these efforts here, he'd approve of the efforts made to decouple his lyrics even further from the oppressor meaning he'd always fought.

And maybe he'd think it was as funny as I do, too.

Brian Eno - Here Come the Warm Jets - 08 - Dead Finks Don't Talk.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for six weeks (or more) (Right click and save as target)

File Under: A Shaky Sense of Diction

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Heavy Metal" - from the CD Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah CD cover
Funny, how sometimes a song isn't about what you thought it would be about at all.

Take the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah song, "Heavy Metal." All this time I thought it was about, you know, heavy metal.

Umlauts, turn it up to 11, naive Tolkien references, women who part their legs with little provocation, that sort of thing.

Turns out instead, it's a much more serious lament about old age, and how you lose your armor, and your sadness at the tattered flag you flew.

Now all the secrets of old age
They tell us we should really stop
They implore us oh
They should adore us oh

It's been a year and now we find
We're lost behind enemy lines
They're gunning for us oh
But they never even met us oh

What happened to our heavy metal?
What happened to our coat of arms?
We find that we're stuck in the middle
Picking up the pieces of our hearts

And there will be no comfort
For all that we have lost
The actors seemed so happy
But somehow ended all washed up

What happened to our heavy metal?
What happened to our coat of arms?
We find that we're stuck in the middle
Picking up the pieces of our hearts

What an amazing and exultant fuzz bass, like a fucking rave it
is, all delirious and chemicaled up from that red punch with the
X swimming in it. And the sunny harmonica propelling the tune
happily forward, like a biplane with a smiley face on the wings
doing loop-de-loops over and over in the clear blue sky, a whoop
that cries out, everything's OK, everything's gonna be alright.

But that's what they call 'contrapuntality,' because even as the music appears to be telling you one thing, the words below suggest another. The joyous music registers on one channel, but so do the darker words below, and they do their separate work upon your lobes, and "Heavy Metal" ends up being either the saddest song you've ever exuberantly danced to, or the happiest song you've ever felt ambivalent about.

Sure I've misplaced the armor that I wore so well when I was Alec Ounsworth's age, and the banners that I waved.

These things are understandable, if not necessarily welcome news.

But right now as the secrets of old age reveal themselves, as another yeah and another year show themselves in my spyglass, what's got me sad, what's got me angry, what's got me ambivalent even in the face of this song's beautiful whomping fuzz bass, is the no comfort part of it, no comfort at all for all that we have lost.


for Alex Martinez, and those who knew him

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - 8 - Heavy Metal.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for 6 weeks (or more, depending) (Right click and save as target)

File under: Picking Up the Pieces of Our Hearts