I was aimlessly browsing and came upon the Ghost In The Shell original score on cd. Loving the film, though having not seen it in years, I knew it would at least conjure some nostalgia for a time long gone. Nostalgia is achieved within 5 seconds of the opening track. Beyond that, it gets very interesting.
About that opener: anyone who’s seen the film will be instantly transported to the iconic fembot creation opening credits sequence. To a young teenage boy in 1996 this was both erotic and confusing, setting up my expectations for something which never appears. Instead what unfolds is an enigmatic film sprouting questions about consciousness, mortality, empathy, identity and where we’re headed as a culture. The film’s outlook is as dystopian as its ending is optimistic. The cinematography and art direction sit at the zenith of hand drawn animation (and yes I know primitive CGI was employed as well). The music sits at a crossroads between traditional Japanese, Hollywood classical, and minimalist synth pads echoing classics like Blade Runner and anything Tangerine Dream in the 80’s.
With my tastes light years removed from whatever I was into at age 14 (remember, this was before the internet made jaded cynics out of preteens bored with Boris and Nico) I find myself slipping into boldly embracing waters with the score by Kenji Kawai (川井憲次). I love the abstract synth sculptures of Oneohtrix Point Never, the warm tones of Brian Eno, the quickening thunder of Taiko and choral flights into pure ambient bliss. I love when an epic orchestral swell dissolves into liquid neon pools, spiking the hair on my neck. I love when an alien sound cloud whisks my conscious mind away, toward nothingness and enlightenment, and peace.
This is one of my favorite scenes of the film. There is no dialogue. Almost nothing happens, but it’s the moment when the initial rush of plot subsides and the viewer truly slips beneath the surface. It is pure hypnosis.
[You can attempt buying this at amazon for an exorbitant price. Or find it on the internet.]
So I discovered that the entire groundbreaking, timeless, brilliant film is free on youtube.
Instructions for those who have not seen Koyaanisqatsi:
1. Stop what you are doing immediately.
2. Turn volume up high.
3. Watch Koyaanisqatsi.
4. Bask in silent astonishment.
5. Thank me.
Honestly, this is one of those life-changing works of art which you will simply and honestly never forget. I fondly recall my first viewing, laying prone in front of a laptop in a cabin on a mountain at night and feeling my astonishment overtaking all physical sensation. This truly begs for the big screen, or at least a reasonably large one, with a reasonable sound system accompanying the visuals. Yet its artistry thrives in any time, place, or size. Which is exactly why I am sharing the profound discovery that it is free to anyone willing to pay only time and curiosity. Hell, if you have firefox with adblock plus, you won’t even see the ads (and honestly, get it – I couldn’t imagine this seamless dream interrupted by commercials) and the only thing you’re missing is the absolute clarity of the original high fidelity print. You’ll undoubtedly recognize certain elements within this time travelling all-encompassing slice of Life Itself, both stylistically and culturally. From the frenzied time-lapse shots of nature and city life contrasting with assembly lines and traffic patterns to the impossibly slow motion glimpses of astonishment and banality, the style and content of this film has influenced more than a generation of visual art and storytelling.
The best part is that I haven’t even gotten to the music; the reason this stands 30 years on as the timeless accomplishment it is: Philip Glass‘ score is the 10 ton monolith blocking out the sun, the elephant in the room, the absolute gravitational pull of this work. If you are at all familiar with 20th century minimalism via Charlemagne Palestine, Steve Reich, Terry Riley or their contemporaries, or especially Glass’ emotive, often romantic take on the sound, you are likely already familiar with some or all of these sounds; if not you are in for a warm embrace of what will likely become a hermetic world you’ll find easily inhabited and unequivocally addicting. Call it lazy, but having the film here and ready to watch makes me reluctant to begin ascribing descriptors to the music. It must be experienced to be grasped. The marriage of sound and picture is essential for direct, uninhibited understanding, for knowing the intrinsic appeal of minimalism itself, for laying bare the nature of conceptual ourboros, the cyclical existence we’re evolved to respond to. This score is meant to evoke the cosmic design of life itself from violent beginning to violent end and all of the impossibly close and personal yet gigantic moments in between.
Note: Do not listen before viewing. Although entirely gorgeous, worthy, and entrancing on its own… divorced from the imagery at birth, Glass’ score will never reach the same affection and thus should be saved for after-film experience.
First: sorry I’ve been sort of quiet for a few weeks.
It’s true. This one pays far more than my prior occupation so it’s worth the being-busy-all-the-time aspect. However I have not – cannot – neglect music and thus always have something worth sharing with the world. Every commute, every bicycle ride, every nighttime book devouring session is accompanied by something new, expansive, exciting… punctuated by old favorites I find myself doubled over with joy upon re-hearing. So I’ve got something to say.
Unfortunately I worked my brains out today and must save the in-depth breathless praise and wild exhortations to purchase vinyl for the remainder of the weekend. I will simply state that there are a few albums I’m quite taken with, continually listen to, and wish that more people would get familiar with. These are a few of them:
United Waters – Your First Ever River
Sensations’ Fix – Fragments of Light
Robert Fripp – Let The Power Fall
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Thundercat – Golden Age of the Apocalypse
and finally, with apologies to the artist herself:
Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Colour Libres
Because this is, by some distance, one of the most powerful and heartfelt albums of 2011 and I really should have shared all about it when I got it months ago. I promise – I swear – I will soon. Keep an eye on this page, and stay ready for the deluge.
In my prior post sharing about Flying Lotus‘ recent appearance in Ann Arbor I mentioned the film Heaven and Earth Magic and shared a single image. Now I’ve come to find, there are not only two video segments from the event shared online, but a good portion of the insightful and honestly funny interview with the guys afterward. Basically the film is impossible to fully describe to the uninitiated. So just catch a bit yourself. This doesn’t convey the complete impact of the hourlong film and black-hole score in a dark theater, but it at least gives a glimpse to those who couldn’t make the show. Here’s hoping, as Flylo himself hinted at, they release this piece in some form, so everyone can share in the magic.
Watching this now, I’m brought instantly back to the warm realization that Mr. Ellison is as personable, endearing and humble as imaginable in person. That he has not only the chops but the charisma to be a star. It’s exciting to witness this artist’s skyward trajectory.
Not only that, but Dr. Strangeloop proved a worthy foil and equally appealing force. The man is quickly scaling my to-watch-for list. The best part is that the show aftwards blew everything about this event to dust. At least for a while. It was a unique experience to take in two entirely different sides of an artist in one day.
I took Eternal Sunshine and I looped it.
No drums no hook just new shit.
Jay Electronica is, in my humble view, the most promising MC out there today. Although having no official albums under his belt, the bootleg collection What the Fuck is a Jay Electronica?! has been making the rounds for a year now and waking heads up across the land. Today I realized that I’d been keeping this hot treasure to myself and needed to share the love.
This song is what grabbed my attention first, being a fan of the titular film (and it’s dreamlike score, courtesy of Jon Brion) and always keeping my ears open for exciting new talent; suffice to say I was hooked. There’s nothing I can say that would pursuade a listener more than the music itself, so have a listen.
With beats driven by the likes of Madlib and J Dilla, the songs released so far are not only deeply satisfying rhyme and rhythm excursions, but point the way to an incredibly successful career. I can’t wait for the day this man is known more for his incisive talent than simply as the husband of Erykah Badu – and that spot on the calender is quickly approaching.
Give his “What the Fuck” collection a try.
[and keep your eyes and ears out for anything this guy drops, official or not. check his twitter for info.]
“Do you know how to use this weapon?” – Nobody
Neil Young‘s score for the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film is hauntingly evocative, an improvised set made with electric and acoustic guitar, organ, and piano, recorded as Young watched rough cuts of the film over just three days.
Vibrant, endless, searching, guiding, and inspiring – Young’s guitar tones ripple through through the fields, cover the mountains, and scour the lakes with their pure holy roller tones – this music feels more like the declarations of some unspeaking presence, a force buried underground, echoing from caverns and crevices, rising up to paint the clouds on occasion, then dissipate over the coast into the roiling sea.
The only frame of reference for this album, aside the film itself, is perhaps the album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, by drone pioneers Earth. The title of that album, in fact, comes from a certain William Blake poem taken from the film and embedded in this album.
The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of 6,000 years years is true, as I’ve heard in hell. The whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite, and holy, where as it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But the first notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I will do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks in his cavern. – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
This is important to understanding the texture and aim of the music. Powerful roaring clean, piercing guitar tones, undercut with judicious feedback and a rumbling low end, are the broad strokes with which this canvas is painted. Warm tones and a nighttime-in-the-woods ceremonial ferver color in the edges. Funereal organ pulse and delicate piano stabs define the lines. The full work comes crashing together via the epic centerpiece Guitar Solo 5, a 15 minute exploration meant to drag the listener far above terra firma (and lash the film viewer’s senses to the screen) into the embryonic soup where stars are born and alchemy is real.
While experience with the film is helpful it’s in no way essential to enjoying this record. Simply hit play and let the wild horse run free. In time, you’ll be ready for your own journey.
[pick up the mindblowing film itself at amazon while you're at it]
A.R. Rahman is, simply put, one of the most thrillingly inventive, widely adored, and extremely prolific composers of this generation. His fortuitous partnering with director Mani Ratnam birthed numerous undeniably addicting musical gems, my favorite of which is shared here: the throbbing, kinetic masterpiece Dil Se.
Bursting out the gates with the indomitable pounding of Chaiyya Chaiyya, we’re barreling through a jungle of sweltering beats and woozy strings on an unstoppable freight train of rhythm. Angelic vocals swoop through the mix on every track, a skyward rush of male and female dancing in perfect interplay – so evocative that even without knowing the lyrics, the feeling is transmitted directly to the pleasure centers of the mind and heart alike. Every one of these six pieces is a celebration unto itself, a massively choreographed and exotically passionate extravaganza. When this record crests its apex with the near-title track Dil Se Re, prepare for liftoff and hang on. From the first massively echoed drum stab through the final climax of gravitational percussion, soaring vocals, Michael Jackson-esque handclaps and herky-jerky basslines, cloudbursting keys and swooning string section – honestly, excitement is a pale imitation of the words needed to conjure the overwhelming feel. Bouncing from one peak to the next, the album relentlessly works to please, and succeeds on all fronts. It simply must be heard. And that’s why we’re here.
Clocking in under 40 minutes, Dil Se is a rush of emotion and movement, passion and power. When the final notes of Satrangi Re fade out we’re left breathless and dazed, and ready to start the journey anew. Join the fun. Get on the train.
[grab this sweet glass of paradise and drink it in at amazon]
Yo La Tengo are one of the most consistently brilliant and longest-running bands in existence today, rivaled only perhaps by Sonic Youth in the longevity-with-strong-artistic-integrity department. Beginning as nerdy New Jersey kids spinning out thrashy Velvet Underground-inspired post punk, they’re now elder statesmen with more genre permutations under their collective belt than most entire labels could hope for, much less a single band. This release in particular showcases their penchant for out-there experimentation and a playful sense of the beautifully absurd.
The Sounds of the Sounds of Science features 78 minutes of instrumental music – an entire score written and performed by the band to accompany eight legendary but rarely-seen undersea documentary shorts by influential French avant-garde filmmaker Jean Painlevé.
Originally debuted on stage at the San Francisco Film Festival in April 2001 with the band providing live accompaniment to the films, these pieces echoe the films’ haunting surrealist imagery, yet the music is equally evocative on its own, from the dreamy soundscapes of Sea Urchins and How Some Jellyfish Are Born to the harsher, more dissonant moods of Liquid Crystals and The Love Life of The Octopus. The final track, The Sea Horse, is a sparkling highlight: inspired minimalist structure the likes of which Terry Riley or Steve Reich may blush at, with buzzy farfisa tones John Cale would jealously covet; a soaring and wistful gust of wind melody flitting above the structure; and all manner of distorted and submerged effects populating the depths. It’s the sort of piece which handily sets me off to sleep on low volume, or makes my heart swell out of my chest when it’s turned up to proper levels, enough to convey the powerful undercurrent of longing and mystery locked deep within.
In September 2001, the group headed into the studio to lay down the complete score with longtime producer Roger Moutenot. The resulting album also features exquisite cover photos from the films, along with eerie-yet-comforting illustrations by Jim Woodring and Jad Fair.
[this entrancing rarity is out of stock at boomkat, amazon simply doesn't carry it, YLT's own website store is down for maintenence.. BUT I have found a rare copy at discogs marketplace.. want to know how rare this album is? It's NOT even on ebay!]
Kalyanji Anandji is the name of an Indian composer duo known for their work on Bollywood film soundtracks, particularly action potboilers in the 1970s. One glance at the cover artwork for this LP should be enough to give any music or film lover a head start on these sounds.
In 1998, Dan the Automator collaborated with DJ Shadow to remix, re-title, and reintroduce this action packed eastern funk to a near-clueless western audience. Floating from jazzy windups to frenzied spy-flick jams, it’s a slick and concise rendering of a very specific intersection of geography and time. Imagine the best aspects of the greatest hollywood funk scores (Superfly, Coffy, Shaft, etc) reinterpreted by bollywood composers, and processed though a modern hip hop sensibility. Or just throw this record on and get heads nodding.
[you can grab this used via amazon]
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[Credit to last.fm for info on Kalyanji & Anandji Shah and especially to beatfanatic for introducing me to this album in the first place.]