Smaller Units of Observation

Rather than recommend a series of artists, albums, or songs, I would like to take a moment to call your attention to some individual sounds within songs. Sounds that really float my boat. I find individual sounds easiest to approach within the context of electronic music, as the parsing and modulation of individual instances of sound is so fundamental to it's composition (not that this isn't true of rock, for instance, but more so in digital composition I think). That said, all of these suggestions come from the realm of "techno", and the innumerable sub-genres contained therein.

Schneider TM - "Moist": I suppose this song could be classified as "house" music, in the sense that it keeps four huge, fat, meaty, wet kicks on the floor for the duration. Generally speaking, I don't find house very engaging - it tends to get a bit monotonous. Schneider TM, mostly by dint of his texturality, is one exception to that rule. The song "Moist", off of an EP by the same name, wraps the listener in a series of plasticized blankets - the sort that glow red or blue when television EMTs use them to warm up or cool down a patient. "Forget The Terminator and Total Information Awareness," it seems to say, "Computers will provide soft surfaces to insulate you from the harsher, sharper objects that fly by as we proceed though the mechanized music of the future. A sonic amnion, if you will.

The individual sound that bears noting here can be heard clearly between 2:18 and 2:50. This sound is the point at which the insidious potential of our comfort-buffer starts to materialize, at least in our imaginations. It sound a bit like a metallic insect burrowing around out there...the blankets keep us from seeing it clearly). It might be friendly, or it might be venomous - we just can't say for sure from in here. Somewhat unnerving, but it certainly presents some exciting possibilities.

After about 30 seconds, the bug is swallowed up again within the cacophony of moving parts. But you can't help remembering it was there. (Q: How is this dynamic upset or altered when considering the last 30 seconds of the track?)

Plug - "Drum N' Bass For Papa" : This track features one of the most satisfying tones I've ever experienced. Beginning at 1:09, you're confronted with a sound that is identifiable as both (or neither) a kick drum and a bass synthesizer tone. It is both very high-pitched, and extremely low-pitched. This kind of effect is almost realized in places like Aphex Twin's "Vorsthosbn" (check out the short "Drukqs" video on this site - scary!) and Boards of Canada's "Sixtyten", but not even Richard D. James manages to create a sound that is so sharp at the top, yet so wide and bulbous at the bottom. I'd call it teardrop-shaped, if it wasn't so awfully ferocious.

The Earl of Bandwidth - "Daisy Remix" : Call me a nepotist, but I really think it's neceessary to mention a noise found at the 1:30 mark of the Earl's remix of "aarrgh Daisy me animal...", as performed by Stop It! You Are Killing Me!, which is in turn a cover of "A Bicycle Built for Two". Overall, this track is something I might call "rainy day drum and bass". The beats are hard, yet there's something distant and melancholy about the whole thing. At 1:30, as the pick-up to the main vocal sample (Michael Jackson, could you tell?), there's a little twirp. Thought it gives an unpleasant impression, I might call it a dentist's drull. Maybe it's just a mechanical hummingbird in need of a little WD-40.

By the way, for anybody who is thinking they might like to listen to more techno, but don't know where to start, I ran across this especially good, though certainly not exhaustive, list of "important" albums.


Blogger d said...

of course the techno aspect helps in the appreciation & cutting up & playing with of specific sounds but I've always been interested in hearing more of that in my rock music. anyone out there with any perfect individual sound moments in rock recommendations?

for a minute I thought a pterodactyl flew past my window. I need more coffee.

11:59 AM, October 19, 2005  
Blogger Phil said...

I've always liked the point in "Under Pressure" where the final drum kit comes in over the words "can't we give love one more chance".

Beyond the beat itself being very...optimistic, the sound of the drums is just so comforting.

5:18 PM, October 19, 2005  
Blogger Pete said...

Don't forget that heroic moment in the Destroyer song Bad Arts where the usual folk-rock surface is cracked, and a huge, booming, overdriven electronic 'full stop' forces the song into a crashing halt for a couple of seconds.

11:03 AM, October 21, 2005  

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