The New Decay

for those who love myusik

Friday, February 01, 2008

On the Decay, Friday February 1st

So Jeff, what are you going to be playing on your show today?


1.) Xiu Xiu's - Women as Lovers
Surprise surprise, Jamie Stewart creates another song cycle that's a bloody mess, and Jeff Friesen absolutely loves it.  Everything on this album is experiencing some form of affliction.  From the instrumentation to the lyrics, to the bands performance on the record, all is broken, and the results are absolutely beautiful.  "No Friend Oh!" is the early frontrunner for track of the year as two forbidden lovers (two men of varying ages) are forced to struggle with learning how to be with each other.  The end result being an acceptance of total unknowing...
'You don't know what you're doing'
'So what, for nor do you.'

2.) Now that Africa is cool again ...
I've been struggling with the Vampire Record.  On the one hand I think it's great, full of catchy pop-hooks that will keep you coming back for more.  On the other hand, anytime an album receives THIS much praise, it's imperative that the album be able to withstand the scrutiny.  Frankly, I don't think this record does.

The intertwining on African rhythms with popular musical forms of the west is by no means a new thing.  One significant example occurring at the beginning of the 20th century when Dixie was created after a melding of African rhythms (often referred to as polyrhythms, although they are in fact more complicated than that term allows for) with marching band forms of the south.  Similarly, the earliest blues music emerged out of the cotton fields of the south as slave workers combined songs from their home countries in Africa, with country and folk tunes they were now hearing in their new homes.  The result of both of these occurrences being the creation of a new form of rhythmic playing that eventually become known "swing".  This new rhythmic style then went on to significantly impact everything from Jazz, to polka, to rock n' roll, to pop and electronic music.

More recently, in underground circles you can see the influence of African rhythms all over the place.  For example, David Byrne, due to his obsession with creating a "white-funk" sound, began experimenting with what he called "Fourth-World Music" intertwining African trance rhythms with his own art-punk tendencies.  The most exciting results of these experiments being "I Zimbra" the lead-off track from 1979's Fear of Music, where Byrne sings meaningless syllables as the band is doing it's best to mimic the polyrhythmic stylings of numerous "world-music" groups who were emerging at the time, tricking people into thinking "wow, David Byrne's singing African".  There's also My Life in the Bush of Ghosts where Byrne teams up with Brian Eno, using same trance-like rhythms against the background of numerous manipulated recordings of radio-evangelists, in order to create an brilliant and passion-filled ambient music that Eno would later refer to as "psychedelic wash."   These are only two of many examples (I could also add more recent groups like Konono No. 1, Extra Golden, or Tounami Diabate, which I'll be playing on my show today).

All of this is to say that listening to the Vampire Weekend record is kind of like a theologian coming into a graduate studies theology class and saying "the task of the church is to be the church."  It's really important to hear once and a while, but doesn't really add anything new to the conversation.

3) Via Chicago
I'm working on a longer piece focusing on '1990s,guitar-based underground music from Chicago' (which will include a podcast) and will give a glimpse of what to expect on the show.  Think anything between The Handsome Family and Sam Prekop.

Until next time...

[EDIT] Take out polka from that list of music.  I can't think of a type of music less influenced by swing.


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