Archive: February 2010

On the playlist, or getting things done … elsewhere

I’ve been busy with a project at work, and my usually blogging time has been curtailed as a result. So much for GTD.

I did, however, reach a point on Friday where a bulk of the heavy lifting is done, and everything that comes after is refinement. Well, until I start showing the project to other users. Then the feature requests will come in, and all bets are off.

I do have to say the release year seems to be starting off slower than usual. I’ve acquired only two items released in this year, and it’s already the last third of the first quarter. It looks like things won’t really pick up till Q2.

That gives me enough to time play catch up.

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Cocco: Cocco-san no Daidokoro

Cocco may have come out of retirement back in 2005, but the artist who emerged from that hiatus was not the same who entered it. SINGER SONGER, her collaboration with members of Quruli, was breezy but rushed. 2006’s Zansaian attempted to conform to the Cocco template but fell short. The following year’s Kira Kira didn’t even make an attempt.

She managed to keep the birth of her son secret till he sang backup vocals on Kira Kira, and it’s a good guess his birth was responsible for soothing Cocco’s stormy inner world.

Cocco hasn’t released much music since 2007, but she has published more books. Cocco-san no Daidokoro essentially serves as a promotional item for a collection of essays with the same title. Regardless, a bit of the old Cocco surfaces in the new.

No, the wailing rocker chick from the early aughts doesn’t stage a comeback, but the tunefulness and majesty of her grander moments inform "Kinuzure" and "Ai ni Tsuite". "the end of Summer" is so transparent as to waft away, but "Bye Bye Pumpkin Pie" brings her back down to solid aural ground.

Kira Kira had a maverick, unpolished feel that wasn’t as refreshing as it should have been, but that kind of looseness gives Cocco-san no Daidokoro some room to breathe.

Cocco’s voice sounds radiant, her harmonizing the best it’s been in a long time.

Cocco-san no Daidokoro doesn’t overstay its welcome, but it’s also enough to crave for more. She struck a nice balance between her newer, lighter songs and her older, heavier sound. A full album would be nice?

That fatal X is all you need

A recent post on Alex Ross’ New Yorker blog reports adoption of classical music by Generation X has not followed the traditional mid-life bump as previous generations.

Responding to the notion that early education is needed to keep classical music alive, Ross writes, "If you can convince a harried President and an addled Congress to divert a few hundred million dollars into music education, you might begin to see significant results in twenty or thirty years. In the meantime, classical musicians essentially need to be in the business of adult education if they are to keep their audience and their livelihood."

That’s what I hope this site can accomplish by mixing coverage of classical with other genres. I could have easily carved out a Japanese music niche, but I’ve always felt that I could maybe leverage one type of coverage to get people into something else.

It’s a method that worked for me in high school, when I started to explore classical music. The long-gone Tower Records circular Pulse! covered classical next to rock and everything else. I’d pick up an issue for cover articles about XTC, 10,000 Maniacs or Eurythmics but stick around for pieces on Ellen Taafe Zwilich, Steve Reich and Terry Riley.

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The Slush Pile, or classical as descriptor, not lifestyle

Sometimes, I’m too willing to join the classical cognoscenti and consider every recording I come across in the genre as somehow inherently profound. Taste eventually interferes with that assessment, as it should.

I’m a Duran Duran fan, but that doesn’t mean I have to bow down to the achievements of Red Carpet Massacre and Astronaut. Honestly, both those albums sucked wind.

So too with the classical canon, and more so with works in the past century. Just because I like one guy’s etudes doesn’t mean I’ll like his horn concerto. And some works just downright elude me.

Such as the ones featured on these recordings.

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Cause & Effect: Cause & Effect

In the wake of Music for the Masses and Violator, Depeche Mode clones came out of the proverbial wood work. First, Camouflage, then Red Flag and eventually, Cause & Effect.

Cause & Effect singer Rob Rowe, like Camouflage’s Marcus Meyn, bore yet another striking timbral resemblance to David Gahan, and those familiar string pads and synth basses thread through the Los Angeles duo’s songs as well.

Guitars were only starting to become a component in Depeche Mode’s music at the time, but they were part of Cause & Effect’s sound from the get-go. The opening track of the band’s self-titled debut album incorporated an acoustic guitar to great effect. The ringing riff that opens "Something New" is more New Order than DM.

Where Camouflage had a spiritual and aesthetic affinity with its England-based counterparts, Cause & Effect were far more willing to spin that sound for its own purposes. In short, they were nowhere near as dour.

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Camouflage: Voices & Images

I grew up with this album but only tangentially.

I bought a 7-inch single of Camouflage’s "The Great Commandment" without really knowing what I was getting. (That was the equivalent of visiting a site such as thesixtyone back then.)

I played it for my brother who was into Depeche Mode at the time, and he ended up buying the band’s debut album Voices & Images. I played it for another friend of mine, who then bought the album on cassette.

I pretty much take Depeche Mode on a case-by-case basis, a behavior rooted in the idea that the band "belonged" to my brother, and Depeche Mode-adjacent bands suffered from guilt-by-association as a result. When I found Voices & Images in the bin at Cheapo Discs during SXSW 2009, I decided to give it a shot.

Damn, those Germans can be a dark bunch.

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New Alex Ross book arrives in September 2010

The Rest Is Noise author Alex Ross announced on his website that he had sent off the manuscript of his next book to his publisher. Titled Listen to This, the book offers what Ross describes as a panoramic view of the music scene. "In the Preface, I say that the aim is to ‘approach music not as a self-sufficient sphere but as a way of knowing the world,’" Ross writes. Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishes the book at the end of September 2010.