Monthly Archives: February 2018

Favorite Edition 2017 Stragglers

[Anne Dudley - Plays the Art of Noise]

It was bound to happen — an influx of Christmas gift money allows me to explore more albums after the year-end post goes online. None of these albums would knock off anything in the final list, but they’re definitely worthy of some belated consideration.

Anne Dudley, Anne Dudley Plays the Art of Noise

Anne Dudley, Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik rebooted the post-Trevor Horn version of the Art of Noise to reissue In Visible Silence. In the midst of it, Dudley released her own interpretations of Art of Noise tracks using mostly piano and percussion with some clever arrangements. The album was released in Japan, and the band hinted it would eventually see a US/UK release. I was not patient, and I think Art of Noise fans are missing out.

Dudley strips away the obfuscating aspects of the original Art of Noise tracks to bring out their musicality. On “Legs”, the croaking bass line turns into clusters that lose none of the original’s percussiveness. Added bonus: she covers the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

Onitsuka Chihiro, Tiny Screams

I actually listened to Tiny Screams when it came out (via the Evil Sharing Networks) and vowed to get my own copy when the Christmas money came. The more I listened to it, the more I favored it over Cocco’s four-disc live extravaganza. The barebones arrangements of the original recordings somehow get stripped even further and become more intense (“BORDERLINE”).

R.E.M., Automatic for the People (Deluxe Edition)

I’ve already gone on record about my ambivalence toward Automatic for the People. I wasn’t inclined to get the deluxe edition of the album till I heard its companion live disc playing in-store at Easy Street Music. The playlist mixes just the correct amount of new material with familiar, throwing in a surprise on occasion. If anything, I’ve played the live disc — R.E.M.’s only concert in 1992 to promote the album — more times than I have the remastered album.

Leo Imai, Film Music EP

OK, I need to follow Leo Imai on some sort of social media site. Last I paid attention, Imai released his third solo album, Made from Nothing, in 2013. Since then, he formed another group, Metafive, and now he’s released an album of film music. The Film Music EP is available in the US through online services, but the full Film Music album is available only at live shows.

Imai has grown bolder as a writer. The four instrumentals on Film Music EP refract the influence of his KIMONOS bandmate Mukai Shuutoku, but “Videotape” shows Imai can be catchy when he wants to be.

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Shelf Digging: Wendy Carlos, TRON

[Wendy Carlos - TRON]

I usual like to credit Art of Noise for starting me on the path to wannabe modern composer. Music magazines liked to describe the band as rock music’s answer to musique concrète, and of course, I had to look up what musique concrète meant in my dad’s music appreciation textbook.

In reality, the seeds were planted far earlier, unbeknownst to me.

In 1982, TRON hit theaters, but Disney built hype around the movie months before its release. By the time my family went to the theater to see the movie, I had already played The Story of TRON to death, essentially spoiling the plot. In addition to the narrated story, I twisted the arms of my parents to get the soundtrack by Wendy Carlos, which I also played day in and day out on the turntable.

The music of the movie was also tied closely to the arcade game. To this day, I can’t hear the “TRON Scherzo” without visualizing the completion of a game within a level.

In essence, the Disney marketing machine had me in its grip.

I was too young to appreciate the mechanics behind Carlos’ score. To my 10-year-old ears, it was futuristic music played on tomorrow instruments. It wasn’t John Williams or Star Wars, and I didn’t care.

Three decades later, listening to the soundtrack reveals how much of Carlos’ advanced score sank into my consciousness. The whole tone scales, the limited modes of transposition, the polyrhythms — the shadow of Olivier Messaien’s arm looms long over the score.

My parents bore it with some grace, but the angular music must have sounded absolutely noisy to them. I’ll admit to some impatience with the portions of the soundtrack that weren’t in the video game, but I internalized it nonetheless, not realizing I was preparing myself for a lifetime of listening to atonal music.

Film scores these days amount to little more than wallpaper, so it’s rare when a soundtrack such as TRON, AKIRA or The Piano can be decoupled from its source.

I’m mystified TRON hasn’t yet entered the orchestral pops repertoire. If Seattle Symphony ever performed the score live, I’d cut a bitch to get tickets. The orchestra musicians might appreciate the challenge.


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2002: An important year in music for the 2000s


According to the database I maintain in Collectorz Music, a great majority of my collection consists of titles from the late ’80s, coinciding unsurprisingly with my high school years. But one year has managed to intrude on that decade’s monopoly: 2002.

What’s so special about 2002?

Personally, it was the year I developed a true sense of my personal taste in music. I was working at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, and I was bombarded day in and day out by music I didn’t particularly like.

For the year I worked there full-time, I ended up actually disliking music on the whole. I retreated further into the genre that captivated me at the time: Japanese indie rock.

NUMBER GIRL, Quruli, SUPERCAR, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, Shiina Ringo — all these artists were putting out some of their best work around that time.

But I couldn’t completely escape the influence of the workplace. An in-store performance by Hem made me a fan. UK music magazines exposed me to The Streets and Dizzee Rascal.

If 2000 was the last hurrah for the CD format, 2002 represented the tipping point. At that point, CD sales still accounted for a majority of sales, but the trajectory was apparent. File sharing was rampant, and Apple was a year away from unveiling the iPod and iTunes.

Music discovery started to move online, with blogs posting weekly MP3s creating a taste-making gold rush that would shorten the shelf life of one-hit wonders. Is Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah still a thing?

Pop culture was splintering. After the bubblegum pop boom of the late ’90s gave way, nothing followed to capture the zeitgeist. Even if file sharing could expose you to an array of genres, communities built around super-specific tastes allowed niches to grow.

I may have been listening to Utada Hikaru, but I had no bone in the Utada vs. Hamasaki Ayumi rivalry. Not that the backpacker listening to Aesop Rock or the aficionado on Italian spaghetti western scores would fathom it.

A decade’s identity doesn’t really assert itself till at least a year into it, and 2002 served that role for the 2000s.

Indie rock had The White Stripes, Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, RJD2 took hip-hop underground, while Missy Elliott continued with her freakings on. Norah Jones unfathomably became a thing.

There was a lot to discover, and there was a lot to share.

That also meant there was a lot to filter.

2002 was the year I set my filters in place. Unsurprisingly, music released after 2002 started to account for less of my collection. It doesn’t really start to taper off till about 2007, when I hit the magical age of 35.