done, friend. i haven’t had the time to get to a post because of a school assignment, but it was nice to take a break and think about this kind of stuff.
Prologue: I am super-excited about this post. With the exception of a few songs I am saving for compilation reviews (e.g., Kill Bill Soundtrack, Ocean’s Eleven Soundtrack, things Metallica managed to cover), this is the last of the A’s! That means B.B. King, Battles and Bauhaus are in my very near future. I am forcing in the time I need to listen, thing and write because it keeps me relatively sane as the new semester starts. I don’t know how I lived without it last winter. Anyways, Art of Noise presented quite a challenge. I don’t really know how to describe what I like about most electronic music, barring something absolutely crazy that stands out in my ears. I guess that makes this review my first attempt at a general techno/electronica album. Be gentle, I’m new at this.
The Best of Art of Noise
To start off, some of these samples just don’t stand the test of time in my mind. Nevertheless, I failed to encounter a single song on this album that didn’t suck me into its atmosphere at one point or another. I don’t know whether to call this a guilty pleasure or a pleasurable exercise in listening to whatever I feel like listening to. However, something about Art of Noise sets it apart from your run of the mill 80’s techno (if I’m misusing/interchanging techno and electronica, feel free to school my ignorant mind). Sometimes in a Kraftwerk kind of way, other times in a Frank Zappa/I-dunno-what-is-serious-and-what-is-in-jest kind of way.
The beats start off stale, but they become enduring. Although the group only hints at it, the humor and surreality of these outrageous samples can break your guard down somethin’ fierce. It’s as if they are the punk equivalent of electronica in their day; maybe they don’t have their sampling technique down packed, but they still take a stand and yell some craziness into innocent crowds. “Beat Box (Diversion One)” reads like a techno playbook from hell, and I wouldn’t take the car soundbite seriously if you paid me to do so, but I’ll be darned if I’m not a little impressed by the band’s moxy in throwing it all in my face.
There are plenty of things about Art of Noise that I don’t have to rationalize enjoying. The ephemeral synths are a centerpiece of pleasure for each song. The out of this world synthesized voices stand out more than anything. From the playful “DUMMM… DUMMM.. DAH DUH DUM” of “Beat Box (Diversion One)” to the very progressive melody of “Legacy”, Art of Noise rarely fails to deliver with this particular sonic vehicle.
Given the sense of humor and surreal delivery of these tracks, “Moments in Love” hits with impressive force. The indian/bongo sounding drums and piano nearly trip over the cheese line, but the simple choral line delivery breaks through all pre-conceived notions I have about 80’s music and gets in my soul a little bit. Moving on from this breathtaking track, “Opus 4” and the Max Headroom-endorsed, computer generated swagger known as “Paranormia” really open the door to what Art of Noise is trying to get at. What that is is more difficult to explain than anything else about Art of Noise. When I listen to this collection, I hear a talented group challenging my notions of what I enjoy and how I enjoy it (hence my Frank Zappa reference, earlier). I’ll be honest, I loathe a few of the sounds on this collection, at least out of context with the work as a whole. However, the mental odyssey on which Art of Noise takes me never fails to draw me in when I really manage to listen.
3 out of 5 stars? This one’s a mystery to me folks. Lots to love, lots to guffaw at.
Epilogue: Ta-da! I finished a whole letter of the alphabet. I’m pretty happy that I’ve been able to commit to this project, insanely long breaks aside. I’m worried that I get too abstract when I talk about electronica or techno, which I do because my musical/emotional vocabulary is mostly undeveloped in this genre. I guess I understand what it is I like about Art of Noise more than I did before, but I’m not sure it’s taking me anywhere in particular. Even if it doesn’t, I am excited at the prospect of reviewing more genres that are newer to me than my old rock and roll, blues, and jazz staples. At any rate, it’s time to move onto the B’s!! Here’s a preview of what’s to come:
B.B. King; Battles; Bauhaus; The Beatles; Beck; Bedrich Smétana; Béla Bartók; Bill Evans; Billie Holiday; Billy Cobham; Billy Joel; The Birthday Party; Bitplane; Björk; Black Dice (yikes); Black Sabbath; Black Star; Blind Guardian; Blind Melon; Blonde Redhead; Blue Scholars; Bob Dylan; Brak (yes, Brak); Brian Setzer; Broken Social Scene; Buddy Guy; Buddy Rich; Bush
I bought my first Elliott Smith album the same day as I bought my first Primus album. I think it made sense to nobody but me.
Man, Art of Noise can really be cool sometimes. The 80’s cheese overloads my brain, though. Anyone else an Art of Noise listener? I just wantonly picked up a best of album many years back; I can’t say I have any amazing perspective on it yet.
This song is of a style called hard bop, which sought to recreate the original bebop of the the 1930’s. To be all too simple about things, small groups emphasized individual creativity with songs that featured the whole band playing a theme, a middle section of mostly improvisational solos, maybe a return of the theme between solos (maybe not), capping it off with a final return to the theme. Give it a listen and consider some things I have to say about it.
There are plenty of interesting things of substance to note about this song. In particular, I am struck by the crisp, sharp notes from the horns’ improvisation, which stand out like paint strokes of sharp contrast. The theme, on the other hand, is somewhat laid back and dreamy. The trumpeter comes in after the first sax solo with staggard rhythms and nasty note delivery that sets a vibrant spark in my earspace. My favorite part about this music is how organically the voices intertwine. If you really listen to how the horns deal with the piano/bass chord changes, you will find at any point the horn player either preempting the change, lagging behind it, or hitting it full force. The intent with which these kinds of musicians do this kind of thing has always astounded me. It sways the careful listener back and forth, and it unsettles the groove just enough to make the groove more savory.
I’m not sure I’ve said anything so far I can’t say about most of the jazz that I have. It’s all so subtle that I could spend days listening to it, unlocking new secrets. Of more interest to me is the ability of this song to harmonize whatever setting in which I listen to it. When I listen to it at my desk, with my good speakers, everything in my room seems to lock into place and make sense. Things that were once messy are now carefully placed, locking into little purposeful cubby holes. When I listen to it walking wherever I go, all of the noise and bustle around me slides off my shoulders like water from an umbrella. Many kinds of jazz emit chaos, fury, sadness, some extreme or another. This particular song seems to be totally devoted to striking at the essence of whatever jazz has been trying to get at in general since it came to fruition.
4 out of 5 stars
Up next: Art of Noise
This one was pretty tough. I used to be more of a scholar when it came to jazz, but not so much now. I remembered that one of my friends suggested I pay more attention to how songs make me feel, so that gave me a really interesting outlet. I really hope you give this song a shot. It is really groovy, and it deserves everyone’s time when they can give it. Also, make sure you show my blog to your friends!