Thursday, April 23, 2009

Upside-down, upside-down...

Blergh, my sleeping patterns are topsy-turvy and inside-out.

I should write a response to this, but instead my time is being eaten by rather unproductive things, like computer games.

This is what comes from having freedom, terrible freedom.

I should go and beat myself over the head with Spinoza's Ethics until the bit about why humans willingly choose to suffer is absorbed into my brain by osmosis.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writing sounds

Ok I don't usually do this except for in my head. Do what? Narrativise, describe, word-ise songs. But my friend Tim gave me a mix-CD recently, entitled Welcome to the Pleasuredome, and I want to do that thing with some of the tracks which is always fraught - talk about them.

Ada - Eve

A ritualistic wrestling match between sternness and an improper sensuality, woven from distinct parts which don't ever really relinquish their separation.

The vocal injunction is strident - a leering chipmunk command: "Close your eyes and wet your lips! Close your eyes and wet your lips!" There is an emphasis on 'wet' which makes the line seem particularly lewd.

So, the track is on hand a luring-in, a seduction. The repetitive, tearing sound with which it opens is like decimating raindrops falling into a liquified brain, upsetting its calm surface. It is the musical equivalent of a 'flashback' effect in cinema - the shot of the present dissolving, rippling before the scenes from the past are played.

So, it is obviously also a very queasy feeling. The listener is being summoned to a domain of sensuality, but there is something bilious and uncertain about it all.

There is a workman-like beeping sound that starts playing over the top of this. It moves between two notes, runs a disinterested pattern, the very essence of 'running through the motions'. It returns a few times, simultaneously blank and anthemic.

But counterposed to this sensuality is a organ/woodwind two-chord loop that is reminiscent of a funeral procession.

It doesn't seem part of the lugubriousness of the track's opening, but appears in its absence. What they have in common, which allows them to rub up against one another, is an obsessive, incantatory compulsion. One is the repetition of ceremony, the other is the iteration of a nauseating pleasure principle.

And then finally, there is a stern robot-flamenco guitar that dissolved into bubbling, restless hyperactivity.

Altogether, a hypnotic meditation on pleasure, on headiness, on repetition.

You can listen to the track here:

I'll post soon about some of the other tracks on the mix - particularly the Aeroplane mix of Friendly Fires' "Paris".

Monday, April 6, 2009

Computer Love

Ok, time to write a second post, or else people will start to think that I don't understand what a blog is.

So Robyn appears on the new Röyksopp album, providing vocals for "The Girl and the Robot".

It occurred to me the other night that this song could form a strange pair with Goldfrapp's 2003 schaffel anthem, "Strict Machine". Both songs have roughly the same subject-matter: the tale of a woman who has fallen in love with something inhuman.

But whereas Alison Goldfrapp's lyrics are all about the tremendous ecstasy that comes of her relationship with this mechanical force - "wonderful electric", the frisson of this hymn to the strictness - Robyn sounds decidedly stressed by the whole situation:
I go mental every time you leave for work
You never seem to know when to stop
I never know when you'll return
I'm in love with a robot
A long way from "I get high on a buzz then a rush when I'm plugged in you".

You could put the two songs together to make a narrative. Goldfrapp - the pre-relationship crush, the mystery and delight of a mechanical, regimented entity that Alison Goldfrapp has seen on the art scene somewhere. But then, perhaps a few years down the track, after some kind of robot wedding, this initial point of attraction has become repellant, the excitement has turned to something sour, and our heroine finds that this robot in fact leaves her lonely. Queue Robyn and Röyksopp - the punctual tin man has no heart, only a single-minded and indomitable work ethic. She's so alooooooone.