Friday Onions: Golden Meringue

Frozen grapes crunched under foot:

A glassy-eyed nonce:

Your train is extraordinarily late:

There are ants in my PVA glue:

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Overdrive

Overdrive is an excess. Overdrive. But it’s often used on purpose in music, making it not an excess, but an effect – a deliberate distortion.

A distortion is a deviation from verisimilitude or an expected, comfortable shape. This makes immediate sense in the context of a distorted image – when one can recognise the deviation from a ‘natural’ form – or in the case of a distorted sound that is equally ‘natural’; a field recording or a note from a canonical instrument.

A voice, for instance.
(This Obnox track doesn’t really have overdriven vocals, but fuck it. Most of them do).

The overdriven sound in garage punk has the effect of illusory amplification. The music always sounds loud, even when it’s quiet. Giacometti sculpted his figures to always appear distant, eluding proximity – you can’t get up close no matter how much you try. On the contrary, you can only be up close to this music. It’s invasive, confrontational.

 

It’s interesting when the sense of something pushed beyond its limits is applied to something that doesn’t have established or intuitive limits. Such that we recognise the exertion and distortion, without knowing what it is that has been altered. Or, more accurately in this case, we sense distortion when there is no real distortion at all, but simply an original sound with morphological similarities to distorted ones.

Abstract, artificial sounds rendered tangible by association with the concrete. A shadow cast by a 3D wireframe.

 
I suppose it’s a part of the lo-fi aesthetic that’s appeared in various forms in recent decades, but Beau Wanzer, Container, Nick Klein and others don’t appear to harbour the nostalgic yearning of lo-fi’s indie pioneers, nor the overt political subversion that punk’s DIY aesthetic symbolised.

Nevertheless, authenticity, anti-commercialisation, purity and directness are all impulses that a certain strand of the underground share.

These artists – although borrowing from vintage electronica – face forward, with a futurist low fidelity that’s more like scratchy broadcasts from space than found tapes from the past. The brutish ugliness of their palette and electronic primitivism suggest a society rebuilt after dystopian end-times in contrast to the high-gloss futurism of Quantum Natives, Fatima Al Qadiri and James Ferraro.
The latter artists’ dig at commercialism lies in a strange, disorientating appropriation that’s equal parts satire and celebration. They recognise the inevitability of technological change (like the original Futurists) and play around with the glitchy, shiny, intangible quality of the contemporary digital landscape.

Maybe it’s in opposition to the fragility and disposability embodied by software, digitalia and internet muzak that overdriven electronic distortion finds its rationale. Bulk, heft, overuse, degradation – dwindling characteristics.

Horns

I find myself with less time to write and, worst of all, think these days. Or maybe I just lack the inclination. Or the ability.

In short: I’m dying.

As if the words on this blog or any other weren’t already desperate scratches at the edges of mortality and loneliness, now I can’t even be bothered to pretend.

Anyway, what I mean is, the rather neatly composed and thoughtful (not my words*) micro-essays haven’t been flowing of late so I think I’m going to start utilising this blog to share music. Something I find comes naturally and easily. When I remember.

Where I can, I’ll fit things into some sort of logical/impulsive grouping and say something interesting about them. Otherwise, I might just post a track without comment.

*My words

Horns

Horns are much maligned. They invariably ruin dance tracks and loads of people (/lesser species) hate jazz. Why? It might be something to do with their ostentation. There’s no burying them in the mix – they’re shrill and clear and vocal in their range – and I think this offends some people. They’re so fucking chirpy.

On the contrary, horns can, of course, be all sorts of other things – from the percussive, rumbling tuba of Oren Marshall to the swirling, scattered saxophone of Stockhausen’s Spiral.

Here are two recent things – from brass veterans – that do great things with horns. The first is from John Butcher. The piece I’m thinking of is at the end of this radio show – it’s called Hamon from his Nigemizu recording. The sax isn’t too high in the mix here, because there is no mix. It’s just John frantically squeaking notes that veer in and out of the sonorous and the dissonant. It’s busy and disorientating and beautiful.

On the other hand, here’s something much less sweaty and frantic, but no less brilliant, from Jac Berrocal in cahoots with David Fenech and Vincent Epplay. It’s a new release from Blackest Ever Black and, as the label continues to surprise and diversify, so it continues to improve. Being ostensibly an old school trumpeter’s album, it seems far removed from the disquieting clatter of Cut Hands or Vatican Shadow. But there are obvious continuities – BEB have re-released classic Ike Yard cuts and Berrocal played with No Wave / Post-Punk royalty like Lizzy Mercier-Descloux and James Chance.

The trumpet is here weaved into a smudged soundscape of distant shouts and buzzing electronics, with a foregrounded sparse guitar line. It’s like some sort of No Wave Western.

 
I’ll have something on Overdrive, Repetition and…stuff in the coming days.