Thursday, April 29, 2010

Israeli Telecommunication Network

There's something far too abstract about most electronic music, with its emphasis on textures and rhythms over song-craft, melody and traditional capital-p pop tropes that has meant I've never truly come to embrace it like a great many of my friends and acquaintances. And it's true, chances are, that if you went to raves during the 90s or liked Aphex Twin, there's going to be an instant aesthetic gap between us that might seem minuscule and unimportant at the time, but will extend to other mediums and art-forms. I practically guarantee it, actually. And I know that, on your end, you'll not as easily understand how my taste. In a certain respect, we're all individuals and we all have our own unique tastes - that's a conceit of good ol' Western civilization and classical liberalism that I'm not about to let go of, thanks - but in another respect, when it comes to pop music and its bastard children, there are certain things we expect from a song, elements we demand, and elements we can predict. We like things in a certain way. If I'm skimming through a bunch of MP3s, for example, I skip to about the 1/8 point of the song, listen for a second or two; skip to the mid-point of the song and listen for a little longer, and by that time I can tell whether the song is worth me investigating further or whether it's not for me. It's like being able to know when something sounds "Christian." After years of absorbing all forms of music, you internalize standards, expectations, norms.

So I guess when I say I don't think of electronic music as album-oriented genre, my rockist roots are showing. Last year, three albums that a lazy record store clerk (when such things existed, outside of the last gasps of a dying empire reflex that is Record Store Day) would dump into the electronic category made me think a bit differently about that. The Junior Boys Begone Dull Care, Rokysopp's Junior and Telefon Tel Aviv's Immolate Yourself.

As much of a fan as I was of the Knife, the Fever Ray album I found overwrought, humourless and oppressive in its demand for emotional attention*. I had hoped it was a case of an artistic misstep, but maybe the Knife's previous work was anomalous and I was guilty of loving too early and too strongly, because the collaborative track with Mt. Sims, Colouring of Pigeons, failed to capture my attention. (Except for that cello - where'd they rip that off from? It's been driving me crazy. I want to say it's from an Eno solo album, but I feel like it's actually a film score.) I expect the rest of the album to continue with The Penguin Cafe Orchestra for Depressives theme.

Much has been written about the tragic circumstances of Charlie Cooper's passing that precluded the release of Telefon Tel Aviv's album, and I don't have anything to add about that. What I do have to say and present to you, just in case you missed it, or maybe forgot about it momentarily (like I did!) is the music. The album itself is expansive, neurotic, vocally impressive, emotive but not pushy... From album opener The Birds, which operates at a level above M83, to the positively euphoric Helen of Troy, the album exhaustively covers all of the area within the confines its set for itself. (If I wasn't so tired, I'd re-write that sentence: it demands elaboration.) The strength of the production and the songwriting manages to transcend the stop-start dynamic-less drum machine beats (a la Junior Boys) employed in You Are The Worst Thing in The World. Immolate Yourself was recorded on analogue equipment with analogue synthesizers, so perhaps all of that preamble about being able to detect certain sensibilities was a bunch of nonsense and I'm just responding to that. I don't really know.

In years gone prior, Marc Nguyen Tan's Colder album and Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours were also albums that affected me in similar ways, though I have the feeling that they were created by people with rockist inclinations.

By the way, the painting above is by March Hutchison, one seriously talented artist whose work deserves more attention than I can give right now. If you're in Montreal, you can see for yourself, as she'll be opening a drawing show at Ethecae (2131 St. Catherine East) on Thursday, May 6th from 6pm - 9pm. (I think the above painting might have been posted on Said the Gramophone before, but I can't recall.)

* Remixes of Fever Ray songs, however, were much more enjoyable.

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