Aphex Twin – Collapse

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Strange 3D logos appear inside the South London underground train stations Elephant & Castle. In Turin, Italy, the same strange symbol appears on a main street. It shows up again in front of some bush in Hollywood, California, and then pops up again in Tokyo. Only someone with the legend and grandeur of Aphex Twin could promote an album release this way. 

If you don’t know who Aphex Twin is, holy fuck. You have a lot of catching up to do. If you’ve tried out his shit but didn’t quite get into it? I’m sure the fandom surrounding Aphex Twin, aka Richard D James (RDJ), looks even weirder to you than the music he makes. Those who love RDJ love him a lot. Fans follow him like a disciple following a candy coated Christ. As a diehard fan myself, I can verify that the amount of devotion I have for this motherfucker is totally fucking creepy. I knew the day this album came out I would be listening to this shit on repeat. It wasn’t a choice. It’s a mission. Others? Can’t fucking stand this guy’s music. 

What the fuck? How can one musician cause such drastic and dramatic reactions? In my situation, I wasn’t all that into electronic music before I got into RDJ. I saw the genre as unintelligent repetitive garbage. I would cross my arms and scoff at the dirty, sweaty, and drugged out Neanderthals walking into clubs and hopping across dancefloors with the clear goal of having intercourse with some other fuckhead, thus continuing the spread of their moronic genes, at these things called “raves”. When I first heard RDJ, I thought his shit was pretentious. I thought he was trying to sound complex to appear smart. I listened to the album on repeat anyway because of the sheer strangeness of it. The more I listened, the more I understood. These sounds weren’t just random. They were exact. Each musical bar was painstakingly created. Eventually, my ear began to enjoy the album’s dissonance and stepped away from “perfect” harmonies in music. I re-listened to music I used to love and found a lot of it boring, repetitive, and pandering. What the fuck?

Have you ever wondered how much your culture impacts your music taste? Why do so many of us like this Do-Ray-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do shit? Before I listened to RDJ, my musical tastes all fit into this box. Anything dissonance sounded “bad” to my ear. But, did you know that it’s possible to re-hardwire your brain so you enjoy the sound of dissonance? All you have to do is to listen to music with dissonance in it like a motherfucker. Re-hardwiring your brain to enjoy dissonance doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly hate harmony. You’ll be able to enjoy a greater variety of music: both harmonious and dissonant. 

RDJ has dissonance in his shit. That’s why it can sound “bad” to some people. After I fell in love with his tunes, I was able to enjoy and explore other kinds of music. The world of Modern and Contemporary Classical suddenly sounded beautiful, tradition vocal music from Latvia, Vietnam, China, and Bulgaria started to sound interesting, I rocked the fuck out to Balinese Gamelan. I understand if someone doesn’t like RDJ when they first hear it. I kind of fucking expect it. Tastes develop when you try new fucking things. It’s how shit works. Beer used to taste like shit as a child, now there’s nothing better on a sunny day. So, you can go ahead and hate this amazing new album from one of the greatest musical minds of all time, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen.

 

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Off for the Weekend

I’m taking a weekend break from writing about music so I can … go see music live? Ya, I’m fucking obsessed. I’ll be back Monday with more awesome fucking albums. And as always, keep listening.

Armand Hammer – Paraffin

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If you’ve been following along, you won’t be surprised that I’m writing about this album. I’ve been fucking obsessed with this duo. Made up of Billy Woods and Elucid, these guys released a record last year called Rome. For those that haven’t dipped their toes into this shit yet, it’s dark and dense. This record uses their previous work as a podium and steps the fuck up. Hells ya. While Rome was all about how the misrepresented and forgotten watch as the society around them falls apart (Rome burning type of shit), this album tells the story of trying to live in the ashes of what’s left. 

The beats on this shit come off like they’re trudging through the black viscous mud of a demolished city while shouldering a homemade machete. If you’re one of those that have a hard time understand rap lyrics, listen to this shit for the production alone. It tells half the fucking story. If David Lynch grew up in the ghetto and made beats to conjure demonic spirits, that’s what these beats sound like. Jazz samples come in like spectres whispering macabre threats to dying patients. This shit sets the framework for some of the most compelling, disorientating, and esoteric verses ever made. 

For those already knee-deep in the work of Woods, Elucid, or previous Armand Hammer, you’ll know that this shit doesn’t make sense on the first go around. I’ve suggested before that the best way to break into this shit is to read it beforehand. But if that’s not your style, and you just want this shit to flow all natural, you’ll still be having a great fucking time.

Right in the first song you have lines like, “Bless the word. It was first, before earth there was black. Melchizedek face tats on his back.” This line is chock-full of bizarre biblical allusions. You don’t need to understand each line in order for images of barren and destitute lands to come to mind. The earth in darkness and some fucked up guy with some weirdo face tattooed on his back? That’s some strong imagery. If you know your old testament a bit, the line “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was God” (John 1:1) will come to mind (as well as that cool comparison to the “Word” and rap in general). And if you know your bible like a motherfucker? The name Melchizedek and it will either send you into shivers or sighs. The name in Hebrew comes out as “king of the righteous”. And in some Gnostic texts it suggests that Melchizedek is the actual Jesus Christ. What the fuck? More than one Jesus? Jesus Christ. This is the type of shit that rabbis and priest debate about. So for the name to be randomly dropped into the first track of a rap album should warn you of one thing: time buckle the fuck up if you’re digging deep into this shit. 

I don’t want this dense lyricism to scare people off or make them feel dumb. That’s not the intent of this shit. What I’m saying is that this album can be enjoyed on many levels. It’s an album that will continue giving years after you bought it. You could be ninety fucking years old and drop this shit onto your antique mp3 player your grandkids make fun of and still find lines that give you pause, turn your head skyward, and make you whisper in that old gravely voice, “motherfucker”. This shit is well worth the trip, at any age. 

https://armandhammer.bandcamp.com/

Ivan Ilić – Reicha Rediscovered: Vol 2

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“You must come to our house and hear a concert next Tuesday they are playing a quintet by Reicha.” from Les Employés by Balzac (translated)

This is the second time I’ve written about Ivan and all his badassery. This is also the second volume (of the anticipated five volume set) of Ivan’s Reicha recordings. You may ask yourself, what more can be said about Reicha or Ivan that I didn’t bring up the first time?

*Giant Inhale*

This album is made up of Reicha’s fugues. Reicha was deep into those fugues. To understand what a huge fucking undertaking Ivan has taken on, you’re going to need a little background.

Reicha and Beethoven were besties (ya, that motherfucker). But shit didn’t stay that way. Now, why would two great composers suddenly have such heavy beef that they would end a fourteen-year relationship? Did Beethoven fuck Reicha’s girl? Did someone fuck with the other’s wig? Did Reicha insult Beethoven’s mother? No, this classical bromance broke down because Beethoven saw Reicha as competition and because of fugues. Fugues! How petty is that shit? Beethoven thought himself to be the sole man to write fugues (talk about ego). But, why not hear this from the horse’s mouth in Beethoven’s gossipy fucking letter to the publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel?

“a certain French composer presented me with fugues après une nouvelle méthode, the method amounting to this, that the fugue is no longer a fugue, and so on—I have wished to draw the attention of those who are not connoisseurs to the fact that at any rate these variations are different from all others.”

What a douche bag. Don’t get me wrong, I love Beethoven. Dude is my jam. But that’s a total dick move. Getting dropped out of Beethoven’s crew didn’t just mean a loss of friendship for Reicha. You see, Taylor Swift has her squad, Leonardo DiCaprio has his wolf pack, Beethoven had (what Reicha called) his “kingdom”. Beethoven blew Reicha’s shit up. 

You may want to take Beethoven’s side. Who wouldn’t? It’s fucking Beethoven. But, remember, Reicha wasn’t just some chump at writing fugues. Dude was boss as hell. King Louis XVIII make Reicha the Conservatoire’s professor on counterpoint and fugue, even though Reicha wasn’t French. He invented an entire, incredibly complex, fugue system. He wrote several treatises on harmony and counterpoint. Motherfucker studied math and read those wonderful fancy fucks like Aristotle and Kant. Guy was smart as hell. And Reicha’s highly contested goal for the fugue? To make it more than just some technical practice shit, but a work of art. 

Enter, Ivan.

What kind of motherfucker looks over forgotten pages of a mostly unknown figure of classical music and decides to play that shit? Ivan, a man that studied mathematics and music at Berkeley. A tenacious pig-headed motherfucker willing to get down and dirty with each Reicha notation, line, break, treaties, autobiography, and obsess about them all incessantly. Someone able to see a highly empirical way of making music and make that shit shine gold. These volumes aren’t just about revealing an overlooked figure of classical music, it’s about the depth, time, and dedication it takes a pianist to perform them all to the best that can possibly be done. Best part? After all the struggles, past and present, this shit sounds fucking gorgeous. 

 

 

 

 

Cuarteto Casals – Beethoven’s Complete String Quartet: Inventions

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I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a way to explain why Casals’s interpretation of Beethoven’s String Quartets is great without sounding like a complete fucking douchebag. I finally concluded that the task is impossible. No matter what, this shit comes out greasy as fuck. So instead, I’m going to present a crash course in how to be your own classical douchebag. That way, when you hear this shit for yourself, you can sound like an entitled prick all on your own! Sounds fun? Good. Now, let’s get this started (this works best if you click the links as you read along).

First, some history.

When Beethoven’s Late String Quartet first came out people did not like it. Just wasn’t their jam. They didn’t even consider it music. Now of days, it’s considered the best shit ever fucking written. And remember, Beethoven was deaf as a white cat when he wrote this shit, so phrases like “ahead of its time” and “genius” make a fuckton of sense. Schubert said after hearing it: “After this, what is there left for us to write?” In other words, this shit is fire. 

Stuff to know: Beethoven didn’t put metronome marks on his late shit so it’s all left to interpretation. How fast or slow it goes is totally up to the quartet. No pressure, right? Some quartets make it so slow it gets boring as fuck. Other Quartets make it sound rushed. Also, the faster something goes the harder it is to understand. But, if it’s too slow it sounds pandering. But, how fast something should go is totally up to you motherfuckers.

How to be a Classical Cunt: The Beethoven (Late String) Quartet Edition

Quartetto Italiano

Up first is the Quartetto Italiano which disbanded in 1980. It’s up first because this shit is off the fucking hook. It’s so fucking slick and everything just flows like warm milk down a naked greased up backside on a summer’s day. The song you’re listening to is called “String Quartet No. 12 in E Flat, Op. 127: 1. Maestoso – Allegro.” The title fucking sucks. But that’s just how shit was named back in the day. These motherfuckers just play it together and as is. They aren’t too heavy on the vibrato and they just own it. It’s kind of the industry standard as far as things go.

Juilliard Quartet

You’ve heard this shit once, now you’ll hear it again. That’s the entire point. You listen to a bunch of renditions of the same shit and make your own fucking decision. So, right off the bat you can hear the fat bass on this bitch. Some say this could be a fault of the recording, some say it’s not. Either way, who fucking cares. It’s fucking there. Other motherfuckers think the tonal beauty of this quartet isn’t there compared to Italiano. You might think this is fucking nuts. And good for you if you do. Means you’re already well on your way to becoming a classical cunt. As for my opinion, shit doesn’t feel as happy and bright compared to our Italiano motherfuckers. But that’s just me. We are comparing the best of the fucking game so don’t worry if it sounds similar to you. Generally, violinist love this rendition. I have no clue why. 

Emerson Quartet 

Hear that shit? That’s what motherfuckers mean when they say “this quartet has a modern sound” or a “febrility” (shit just means “fever-like and classical fucks say it to sound confusing). The reason for this is that the Emerson Quartet is fucking modern. So far, this is my fucking jam. Some people try and train you on hearing how shit is played and not the recording or style, but that takes time and training. And, like I said, this is a fucking crash course. All I’m doing is helping you see the differences of styles so you can be on your way to becoming a classical douchebag. I can’t teach full douchebag lessons this quickly. 

Tokyo String Quartet (Skip to 5:07:38 for same song)

You hear that? Does that shit seem like it has more air? And somehow that viola is easier to hear. What the fuck, right? It’s easier to hear the separate parts on this recording. Don’t ask me why. I’ve heard these guys do other recordings, but something about them and Beethoven just fucking clicks. It feels less structured in its own way. This shit flows like a river instead of being static and mechanical notes on a page. I love their fucking rendition of it. It has a “modern sound” (now, as a quasi-classical douche, you understand what that shit means). 

Alban Berg Quartet (Skip to 19:36 on this shit)

The Alban Berg Quartet is a fucking classic. It’s the kind of shit that you might have heard before without ever knowing it. But, now that you’ve heard some interpretations, you can figure out for yourself whether or not you like it. There’s nothing “muddy” (Meaning the instruments don’t sound like a giant mess of sound. You can hear all four of them bitches playing). There’s minimal vibrato so you can hear what’s on the page, not some interpretation. And that quartet works together like a single machine. It’s a classic of a classic. Though, by now, you might not like the perfect “classical sound” and prefer some stank on that ass.

(If you want to try more of this shit, BBC makes it easy in a single fucking recording [https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p01sgkhs])

Cuarteto Casals Shit

So, this is Casals Quartet. Why is this shit good? First off, I love that clarity of tone that’s not trying to fuck me in the face. It’s clear without being pushy. This quartet allows the music to speak for itself while also sounding clear and modern. This doesn’t happen every day and it’s really difficult to do. It doesn’t sound at all douchey to me. Which, for a quartet, sounds almost impossible. I’ve heard this shit so many fucking times. But, somehow, I “rehear” the beauty of this composition when Casals Quartet plays it. That’s right, I’m like fucking Madonna with these Beethoven String Quartets; touched for the very first time. The tone is pure, the vibrato doesn’t sound like it’s riding on a derailed train going through a gravel pit. It’s pure. It’s clear. It’s clean. And it makes me want to jam the fuck out to some of my favourite music ever made. But, now that you are your own entitled douchebag, how about you listen to it and make your own decision? 

Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love

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This album is the shit. 

Yves has created a seamless and easy sounding album that crosses genre borders more often than those drug mules with medical school student debt. This shit slides so easily into a room it’s like a buttered up mosquito. It creates a mellow hip-hop/jazz tone while continually pushing boundaries on what this shit actually is. Ambient? Hip-Hop? Noise? Electronic? R&B? What the fuck is this shit? It’s trippy as balls and relaxing as fuck. And, trust me, that combo ain’t easy to make. Yet it’ll seduce you faster than Idris Elba asking you if you want to split a bottle of your favourite alcohol. So just go ahead and add this to the albums you listen to if you ever happen to accidentally fall into a vat of hallucinogenic drugs. 

Yves has always been a forward-looking dude. Back in 2016, this motherfucker released a solid album called Serpent Music. It was good. A really solid listen. But I didn’t listen to that shit twice. It just didn’t hit the potential it could have been. The ideas introduced seemed to be flat somehow. It reminds me of those songs, back in the day, that used to fade out at the best part (What the fuck was that shit?). My question of why Serpent Music sounded suppressed and subdued has finally been answered. Yves switched labels and suddenly turns fucking amazing? Naw man, that’s the smell of record company stank all over this shit. Thank fuck the dude switched over to Warp Records. These motherfuckers are fucking renowned for not giving a fuck and letting their artists do what they want. 

The result of this switch is a thick, deep, wonderful, easy to digest, honest, forward thinking 42 minutes of audio heaven. As soon as you think you corned what this shit is, something comes your way that changes your mind. Like I said before, it’s incredibly hard to make forward-thinking music that’s this fucking slick. It skates that line between comfort and uncomfortable in the same style Bjork’s Debut and Post did back in the day. By the sounds of this record, it’s not a fucking fluke. Watch out for this motherfucker. He’s pushing bounds. This is like R&B Aphex Twin. It’s fucking tight. Yves has come to steal your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, cat, dog, wallet, mother, father, and best friend and you wave it all goodbye, smiling like a fucking idiot, while he drives away in your car. That’s just how slick and edgy this album is. 

Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano III

Chilly

Chilly Gonzales (Jason Charles Beck) is one odd motherfucker. 

Let me ask you, how would you raise someone to become a well-known piano soloist? First, you would live in a big city. Want the best teachers? Gotta live in the city. Next, start the kid off early. Probably around two to four years old, assuming that this piano teacher panjandrum would even accept the blubbering child on as their student/protégé (it’s a weird fucking gift to be able to tell the genius children from the degenerates because of the circumference and longevity of each spit bubble). From there, this child would have to live a highly managed and scheduled lifestyle full of theory exams, hours of practice, a full engulfment into the classical society, lessons in elocution, etiquette, and also how to be a giant flaming garbage fire of a douche bag. Shit would be tough. And even if they did all this to absolute perfection, it wouldn’t guarantee a fucking thing. All this would do is give that piece of shit a leg up. Just ask any well-polished, well-educated, sight-reading piano playing douchebag living in their parents’ pool house bitching about the weather in Aspen and the thin legs on the rosé. 

Well, what if a pianist released a couple rap albums? What if a pianist made a cover album featuring song by Daft Punk, Drake, and Lana Del Ray the same year they released their solo record? What if a Grammy award-winning piano soloist used to be a semi-famous Canadian pop star? Someone so semi-Canadian-famous that they opened up for the fucking Barenaked Ladies. Only a pianist with a rapper’s ego would create a school called “The Gonzervatory”. Only someone with the competitiveness of a pop star would break the world record for a solo-artist performance at 27 hours, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds. This is Jason “Chilly Gonzales” Beck. The road to his success doesn’t make any fucking sense. But with this unique and enthralling history comes a playing that doesn’t occur often in the solo piano world. This shit is modern day Satie with a jazzy edge.

Solo Piano III is the third part of Chilly’s solo piano records. Chilly’s compositions are not incredibly sophisticated in the way Rachmaninoff is. But, sweet fuck, is his shit catchy and chill. It melts the room into Vincent Van Gogh streaks. It reminds me of the first time I listened to a Satie record and everything in my world suddenly slowed down and chilled the fuck out. These smart and catchy songs are perfect in their own way. They aren’t there to show off piano chops. They are there to create a mood. And, just because this shit doesn’t sound sophisticated, doesn’t mean it isn’t. It’s incredibly hard to make a song sound this chill and also be memorable. This gift is why Chilly has worked with the likes of Daft Punk, Feist, and Drake. What makes him so fucking memorable is not what he plays, but the silences he leaves between each note. Take a listen while you go about your day and try not to enjoy the vibe it brings. 

So, how do you raise a kid to be a great piano soloist? Teach the kid to play their heart, essence, and soul. Robots can play the right notes; only humans can play the right silences.