Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Atrocity exhibition

oystered 23 (apr. '07)

Total running time 4:33:47.
1. opsvik & jennings the last country village (commuter anthems CD/rune grammofon) (4:08)
tarwater world of things to touch (spider smile CD/morr music) (3:22)
bill callahan sycamore (woke on a whaleheart CD/drag city) (5:36)
deerhunter wash off (flourescent grey CDep/kranky) (5:47)
our sleepless forest the tinderbox (free the future mp3/type) (6:57)
6. organ eye tema #1 (organ eye CD/staubgold) (25:00)
7. senking mist (list/raster-noton) (4:48)
baby ford & zip the riverbed (glidin’ along the riverbed 12”/perlon) (9:16)
9. shackleton blood on my hands (ricardo villalobos apocalypso now mix) (soundboy punishments dbl CD/skull disco) (18:34)
10. moskitoo paddle (drape CD/12k) (4:18)
blonde redhead my impure hair (23 CD/4AD) (4:50)
islaja suru ei (ulual yyy CD/fonal) (5:15)
fursaxa clé elum (alone in the dark wood CD/atp recordings) (1:47)
grouper close cloak (way their crept LP/type) (8:45)
valet blood is clean (blood is clean CD/kranky) (4:59)
16. alessandro bosetti exposé #16 (exposé CD/die schachtel zeit) (28:12)
17. david toop falling light (sound body CD/samadhisound) (10:31)
machinefabriek stofstuk (stofstuk CD/machinefabriek) (5:30)
william basinski evening scars (shortwavemusic CD/2062) (8:36)
alva noto haliod xerrox copy 6 (xerrox vol.1 CD/raster-noton) (6:42)
erik enocksson with its dark tail curled ‘round the garage, pt. 1 (farväl falkenberg CD/kning disk) (2:09)
22. seefeel silent pool (quique [redux edition] dbl CD/too pure) (7:02)
23. nightcats inside (inside 12”/k2) (6:58)
24. reinhard voigt charge your dreams (charge your dreams 12”/kompakt) (6:15)
25. alex under extrapezlo (1, 2, 3 responda otrapez 12”/trapez) (6:53)

26. astral social club star guzzlers part 1 (star guzzlers LP/qbico) (19:08)
27. vibracathedral orchestra the sun balance (a3) (the sun balance/the open knot LP/qbico) (4:43)
28. vibracathedral orchestra rainbow whirlwind (wisdom thunderbolt CD/vhf) (12:37)
29. the fun years softy as stilts (life-sized psychoses CD/barge recordings) (10:09)
30. oren ambarchi lost like a star (lost like a star LP/bo’weavil) (14:41)
31. michael flower octave #1 (returning to knowing nothing LP/qbico) (5:41)
32. tarentel untitled (a) (home ruckus : double-sided air 7”/type) (4:47)

Atrocity Exhibition,
an epiphany: “Atrocity Exhibition” – the first track on Closer – was the first Joy Division song I ever heard. I begged my older friend to bring his record to school and let me borrow it for the night. He was part of this cool group of kids a year older than me who all had weird haircuts and quirky fashion sense—they thought, and everybody thought—they were punks. Einsturzende and Bauhaus t-shirts. These band’s logos looked cool and I was very curious. I was already digging New Order, and knew they came out of the ashes of the even more mysterious and anonymous Joy Division. I was tapping into the whole 4AD aesthetic as well, and their record covers looked very impenetrable and interesting, like some of the 4AD albums and 12” singles I had been buying.

Okay, so this was like 1985—I know, I know, it’s all a bit embarrassing, but you can’t help when and where you are born, right? So anyway, getting back to Closer, and, namely, “Atrocity Exhibition.” My friend brings the album to school, I promise to him I’ll take good care of it and bring it back to him the next day. So, I have no idea what to expect—no “Love Will Tear Us Apart” or “Disorder” or “Transmission” under my belt—and all of a sudden this dry, dubby lead bassline comes out only to be followed by this persistent, tribal, triplet drum pattern and what’s this? next – jungle sounds? Monkeys, tropical birds—no, wait, that’s the guitar?! What’s going on? What is this I’m subjecting myself to? This is punk? Sounds more like jungle to me. Until that voice comes in. That voice.

It takes a while, but Ian Curtis finally enters the song and it’s the worst voice I’ve ever heard up to that point in my life. Why in the world did they let that guy sing? I was stunned. Stunned and let down. My expectations were so high for this (that album cover, those older kids with the cool t-shirts…) and at this point I’m seriously thinking this isn’t for me. I’m wasting my time. How can I get to like this? Those cool kids can’t possibly like this. They say they do to be cool. Right?

By the end of “Atrocity Exhibition”—and this is a long track folks, maybe their longest, not counting their live version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” on Still—when Curtis’ delivery is getting more and more demanding, and maybe more off-key with, “This is the way/Step inside, This is the way/Step inside,” and the drum triplet goes up an octave or whatever drums do and the guitar and bass are making the whole thing a cacaphony—I mean, did they practice at all?—I had to put it on again to make sure of what I just heard. Convince myself this was no good. And then again. Well there is a groove there isn’t there? And again. And those guitars sure do sound exotic. I’ve never heard a guitar like that before. And again. Heck, that voice isn’t so bad. Punk though? More like funeral music for the dying (well, not that far off there). And again. How totally and utterly unique this was! I was hooked. The rest of Closer is far more normal sounding in song structure, in fact, the next track “Isolation” is practically a New Wave Euro-pop Top 40 hit compared to what my ears and head were just put through.

I figured, at first, I just wasn’t getting it—whatever Joy Division was all about. Through years of continued listening I finally am (still figuring it out, that is). And, in hindsight, I think I started out with (one of) their most difficult song(s). Now of course, “Atrocity Exhibition” is one of my favorites, probably for the test the band put me through that night nearly 25 years ago. And of course weeks and months and years of repeated play. “Atrocity Exhibition” was definitely a “gateway song” for me. Just check out this post for further proof of that.

One of the tracks that might have that “Atrocity Exhibition” affect here is Alessandro Bosetti’s “Exposé #16.” I’ll admit, it’s a tough but compelling listen. It’s not noisy, but is it music? I listened to the album a week straight trying not to hate it. Now I love it. It’s one of those you’re “rewarded for your patience” tracks. I don’t know if I was more happy listening to the song or happy that it was over, or proud of myself for sticking it out for nearly a half an hour. But now there definitely is a meditative, calming quality to it for me. There’s some other “difficult” tracks on here, but there’s also some real immediate, indie-pop cuts and some real beautiful slow-burning ecstatic droners. Some long vinyl only cuts as well. This post is definitely over ambitious. Maybe even atrocious for its over four-and-a-half-hour playing length. It’s taken months to get through all the music and figure out a way to put it all together to make some sort of sense or flow. Hopefully it can keep all of you entertained for at least a fraction of the time it took to assemble it. Cheers.