Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Repetition, Appreciation… Nostalgia?

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Over at Invisible Oranges, Cosmo wrote about the phenomenon of friends who “don’t
keep up with music anymore
”. So did I. And I keep thinking about it.
Yesterday I listened to Sepultura’s “Roots” for the first time in several months.
Compared to what I have been listening to lately and with said band’s own back
catalog, “Roots” is only scarcely metal. What I mean is, that in spite there being an
abundance of loud, distorted guitars, shouted vocals and heavy drumming, the tempo
is actually quite slow overall and the emphasis seems to be on rhythmic diversity,
complexity and subtlety and emotional atmosphere than pummeling. As I listened I
discerned, to my ears a number of nuances I had not yet heard, out of phase vocal and
guitar overdubs, the way the high toms floated on top of the miasma of distortion and
thick torpor beneath and how Max Cavalera’s vocals strained, cracked and broke.
Some albums we exhaust and continue to like (Faith No More’s “The Real
Thing”), others we exhaust and acknowledge their significance and move on
(everything by Nirvana). Then there are others that rightly should have been already
exhausted but for some reason they possess a magnetism, an allure that beckons us
back time and time again. As we age and accumulate greater responsibilities, finding
the time to deeply appreciate music becomes increasingly difficult. For those of us who
found refuge in the mainstream, this listening can happen everyday, in supermarkets,
taxis, as muzak and in cafes and restaurants. For metal heads though, appreciation is
a deliberate, active process, an event.
Every time I listen to an album such as “Roots” I listen for a number of reasons:
familiarity, affinity, curiosity and sometimes when trying to remember something,
nostalgia. I can never forget the context of listening to “Roots” when I first heard it in
1996. It gelled with my adolescent frustration, awoke my awareness of the third world
and switched on my ethics. But what does it do now? I am now 32 years old. My age
has almost doubled since that album came out so of what use could “Roots” possibly
be to me now?
I have listened to a lot of metal since then. I have discovered innumerable
connections between bands, albums, people, places, songs and concepts. And
yet, “Roots” still speaks to me. Whereas previously the rhythmic flourishes and timbres
were new and vaguely “tribal” or “ethnic” in my mind, now they are everything. I
struggle to grasp their eloquence, their composition, their instrumentation and also the
tension between effortless integration and genre contradiction. I try to hear the Brazil in
the music and reconcile it with popular imagery and with the reality of Brazilians here in
Japan. Thanks to Melvin Gibbs, I am also mindful to listen to how this album swings.
All of that from a single album released fifteen years ago. An album I have
heard at least a hundred times and an album I am not done with yet. Which leads to a
single, simple thought: if I am new with each listen and can hear my newness and
increased worldliness in each listen, then can I ever be done with an album?
If there are albums that we are never fully “done” with, then what role does
new music play? Personally, feel as though I have just scratched the surface of
Omnivium’s “Cosmogenesis” yet the thin spine of my “Omnivium” LP frequently
whispers - a la C.S. Lewis - “play me”. Then there is the new Weedeater album. A
dense, blues inflected sludge cloud clocking in at just over thirty minutes it should be
easy enough to absorb and yet, I still feel as though I am only just starting to “get” the
flow of the album.
And maybe this is the core of the phenomenon. I love music, like the sky,
like reading, it is integral to my life. It is a simple thing, a divine thing that informs

my every movement. I refer you to an earlier conversation on Deleuze. If music is
rhythm, repetition and variation, then life is music. The daily habits, from waking to
eating, working to sleeping, loving to breathing, we do it all again and again. Life has
frequency, articulation, accents, composition, improvisation. The world to me is music
and so is the semantic reversal. Therefore I am always interested in learning how to
incorporate more music, deeply into my explicitly musical lived life. The fact is that
for many, music is mere adornment, a superfluous decoration, a set of coordinates to
orient memory and nostalgia. That “friends” give up on music should not be a surprise.
That people remain interested should be.
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