22 August 2008

Recent music

Some of this is what I listened to on recent travels, and some of it is music I discovered when I got back. I like the fact that the memories of the English countryside, the city of London (remembered fondly even, who would've thought?) and domestic night flights across Australia come back so vividly - perhaps even more real than a photograph - when I listen to this music again these days. Anyway, in chronological order:

Popol Vuh

Popol Vuh
Albums: Aguirre, Coeur de Verre (listen to 'Aguirre II' here)

The opening scene of Herzog's Aguirre, set to Popol Vuh's music, is truly unforgettable: conquistadors moving like ants through the mists of the Peruvian mountains. That piqued my interest but of course their CDs were completely impossible to acquire in my country. However, thanks to the wonders of the internet I've actually managed to procure seven of their albums. As silly as it sounds, a bad amazon.com review put me off the Aguirre album, but when I actually got to listen to it I loved it! It's probably my favourite album of theirs that I have because every track is great. I particularly love the two tracks from the Aguirre film and 'Morgengruss II' - but really, trust me when I say this whole album is fantastic.

The more accessible and guitar-driven Coeur de Verre - the soundtrack of another excellent Herzog film, Heart of Glass - is what I listened to train rides through the English countryside. It just seemed to go really well with that landscape. Like Dead Can Dance, they're influenced by and incorporate elements of non-Western traditional music - though Popol Vuh are more influenced by Indian music whereas with DCD it's more of Middle-Eastern music. My favourite track on this one is 'Hüter Der Schwelle' - the track that got me into the whole album.

Trent Reznor, Feb '08

Nine Inch Nails
Album: The Slip (free download here)

Having been a total NIN fangirl for the past whole year (though I'm glad to admit it's finally wearing off now) it goes without saying that I was ridiculously excited when this was released for free online and wasted no time in downloading it. I got it the night before I left Hatfield for Edinburgh and so I got to listen to it for the first time on the almost five-hour train ride, passing through York and Newcastle. After listening, I was pleased as punch since the album exceeded all my expectations (especially after hearing and not really liking 'Discipline' the week before). 'Echoplex' is totally my favourite track off this album and for me is synonymous with London and the apprehension and anxiety I used to feel on the trips there. I guess it can be really alienating travelling in a huge city on your own for the first time.

I have to say I also really love '1,000,000' and I used to start my day off listening to that. I mean, it's so energetic! Love it. Anyway, I've met quite a few NIN fans in the last couple of months, and I'm really the only person I know that likes their new sound. I can't wait to see them on this tour (assuming they will head this way. I mean they should, right!?).

Imaad Wasif

Imaad Wasif
Track: Seventh Sign (listen here)

Yeah, it's just one song - but it was one song I absolutely could not stop listening to when I was in Australia and especially on the dreary domestic flight from Perth to Canberra. Seriously, the sheer emotional intensity of this one is quite unmatched. Unfortunately, at this point I can't really get into most of the rest of the album Strange Hexes (a nice title and great album cover - which is what drew me to it in the first place). But the more I listen to it... I have a feeling that might change soon.

Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance
Albums: Into the Labyrinth, The Serpent's Egg (listen to 'Host of Seraphim' here)

I really love the heavier Middle-Eastern influence on both these albums. I also think both Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry are excellent vocalists. It's kind of strange how the music has this really timeless quality to it, as it's so influenced by traditional forms of music. I like that. I like how I can listen to it on the train, travelling around in this city and not feel out of place. It fits right in with the modern world. I certainly don't feel that way when I'm listening to any form of classical music, which is why I find it hard to listen to such music when I commute - it just doesn't fit. Anyway, off of The Serpent's Egg 'The Host of Seraphim' and 'Echolalia' really stand out to me. Especially the former, because every time I hear it, I'm reminded of this scene from Baraka (incidentally one of my favourite films - love it when my favourite things come together).

And as for Into The Labyrinth, my favourites are 'Emmeleia' and 'The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove'. I tend to prefer the overall sound of this album and I like the fact that it sounds less dated. Although I actively dislike 'Tell Me About the Forest (You Once Called Home)' and 'The Carnival is Over' and can't really listen to those tracks.


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09 August 2008

The Music of Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance

Some of the only music I could listen to when I was in Australia last month was Dead Can Dance. It just seemed to go so well with the surrounding landscape. Especially in Canberra - with all that open space, the gnarled trees in winter and the mountains that formed a constant backdrop for the city. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Dead Can Dance actually were an Australian band originally from Melbourne.

I've had a few tracks of theirs sitting around on my hard drive for some years now, which formed my introduction to the band - 'Black Sun' and 'Saltarello' from Aion, 'Song of Sophia' from The Serpent's Egg, and (my favourite) 'The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove' from Into The Labyrinth. All this led me to my first Dead Can Dance album, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (brilliant title, in my opinion). After about a week of intense listening, I acquired Into The Labyrinth which I now prefer because of the heavier influence of non-Western traditional music.

What attracted me to the music in the first place was the fluid mix of traditional elements set to modern song structure. And of course the excellent, excellent vocals. I mean, the first time I heard 'Song of Sophia' I was surprised that anyone could - or would bother to learn how to - sing like that anymore. It was music that seemed like it was made by real musicians (as opposed to just another stupid band trying to seem more interesting than they really are), true artists with a unique vision and an idea of music that very closely matched my own ideals. I suppose that subconsciously I had been looking for a long time for music that I found 'listenable' in a modern sense but that also seemed ancient and timeless in a way. Modern music that wasn't entirely 'of the city', which possessed an awareness of traditional music - both Western and non-Western. I was looking for a synthesis of all these things and I must say I came really close to finding them in the music of Popol Vuh and Zoe Keating. And while I love their music (and should probably write about it one of these days) I have to say that Dead Can Dance resonates with me on an even deeper level.

Something about the music seems truly 'sacred' - and I'm really apprehensive about using this term to describe it because of the obvious connotations. But it's as if they tap into something universal during the creative process and that really comes through in the music, which is transformative and regenerative. Watching Sanctuary earlier today, I was particularly affected by this statement of Lisa's;

"I believe that the ... river that work comes from will be there with or without us. And I think that's where you know you've evolved as a human being. If you can continue in humility to serve those voices of creation that nourish and give inspiration to others."

Often, the music brings back the exact mental and emotional states of certain powerful experiences I've had in my life. Times when I've been in awe of the totality of life itself and when I've had a subtle awareness of human existence being something so much greater than myself. I suppose it's some form of self-transcendence (in it's own small way, and yet still really powerful) because it's in moments like these that I start to realize that so much of what we call the universe remains unknown (and possibly even unknowable) to mortal man. Something in this music seems completely synonymous with recent experiences I've had that I would consider profound in their depth. Of being immersed in beautiful, untouched nature for the first time in my life (in Scotland) and of experiencing the magnificence of medieval English cathedrals.

Horizon Ely Cathedral Related links:


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21 June 2008

Ghosts I-IV

23 Ghosts III

I intended to write something about Ghosts I-IV back in April, shortly after it was released, however I just kind of forgot about it (even after uploading the images and everything). Of course I bought Ghosts online the very day it was released. I'd been yearning for an instrumental album from Trent Reznor since the release of Still in 2000, so the idea of an instrumental 2-hour double album along those lines was ridiculously exciting.

27 Ghosts III

For me, Ghosts is without a doubt some of the most beautiful music in the entire Nine Inch Nails catalog. Though I think what made the experience of it more powerful was the photography included in the accompanying PDF - images which complemented the music so well and seemed to encapsulate the very atmosphere of the album in visual form.

29 Ghosts IV 35 Ghosts IV

I'm not sure how exactly I would feel about these images on their own, but in the context of Ghosts, I think they suit the music perfectly and find the whole package really inspiring. Photography is credited to Philip Graybill (you can find additional photos for Ghosts not included in the PDF on his site) and NIN art director Rob Sheridan.

12 Ghosts II

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04 February 2008

Bill Viola + Nine Inch Nails

The Great Below I first encountered Bill Viola's work unknowingly, through this very image in the teaser for Nine Inch Nails' Still album. I really, really love the video pieces he made projected in the background of La Mer, The Great Below and The Mark Has Been Made during the Fragility tour. The image above is part of an incredibly beautiful sequence shot in poppy fields. The Great Below La Mer I've always really loved the aesthetics of The Fragile and La Mer and The Great Below are two of my favourite songs on that record. It's wonderful to see the sentiment in the music both reflected and complemented so well by gorgeous visuals. La Mer The Great Below
"I wanted to let the images actually provide a base for the music. I'm really not interested in illustrating music and certainly not in cutting on the beat or throwing in every little movement in the song. I think images can function, in contrast to a lot of music videos ... as kind of a base or a steady state that allows the music to flow and ebb and crest over the top of it."

- Bill Viola in the DVD commentary on And All That Could Have Been
The Great Below The Great Below One of the last few images from The Great Below and also one of the strongest and most enigmatic. Viola talks about how this is an image "of ascension... into another world, another state". Interesting, considering that it reminds me a lot of The Hanged Man of the tarot. Check out the videos:

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My name is Abigail and you can find out more about me here. Also you can email me here.
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