Archive for the ‘Jean-Luc Godard’ Category

lou_reed-620x412 SOUNDTRACK: LOU REED-Metal Machine Music (1975).

mmmfrom Wikipedia:

Metal Machine Music is generally considered to be either a joke, a grudging fulfillment of a contractual obligation, or an early example of noise music. The album features no songs or even recognizably structured compositions, eschewing melody and rhythm for an hour of over-modulated feedback and guitar effects, intricately mixed at varying speeds by Reed himself. In the album’s liner notes he claimed to have invented heavy metal and asserted that Metal Machine Music was the ultimate conclusion of that genre.

I don’t know how many people have actually listened to this album all the way through.  There are four 16-minute tracks.  Each one is, on the surface, exactly the same: feedback and more feedback.  In truth, the album is a bit more complicated than that.

There is a guitar in the left speaker and a guitar in the right speaker and each one is feedbacking in very different ways.  Indeed, if you listen to only one speaker at a time, you get a very different experience (I haven’t done that with the whole album, although that’s only because I really only found out about that recently, I did for a few minutes and it was pretty fascinating).

And fascinating is what this release is.  It was unlistenable in 1975, there is no question.  Just as something like Slayer would have been unlistenable in 1975.  But twenty years later, when Sonic Youth was riding high, Metal Machine Music seemed a lot less outrageous (indeed, their 1998 release Silver Sessions was essentially the same structure of feedback).

And now MMM seems very forward thinking.  Whether or not it was a joke or some kind of payback to the label or whatever (liner notes suggest he just really enjoyed enveloping himself in feedback), it’s a remarkable record.  If you can actually sit through it, there are some really interesting moments in it.  There are times when the squall and noise turns eerily beautiful, when the ringing notes take on chime-like status.

And unlike the aforementioned SY album in which they just turned up their amps and left, it sounds like Reed was actually hanging around and manipulating the sound.  You can hear times when new notes/strumming comes in and changes the mood.  And of course, Reed had to edit it for the album.

One of the more interesting moments comes right at the end of the disc.  On the vinyl release, he made a locked groove so the final rotation would keep repeating over and over until you had to get up and manually lift the needle (as if the album wasn’t difficult enough).  On the CD, they repeat that section for about a minute.  And that little repeated section is noteworthy for the rough distorted guitar and chiming feedback that all sounds very cool.

All of this is not to say that this album is enjoyable.  It’s really not.  It’s brutal and harsh and best handled in small doses (even Reed admits that in the notes).  But it is noteworthy and fascinating.  And it may have inspired as many feedback based bands as the Velvet Underground inspired droning bands.

[READ: November 2, 2013] “I loved Lou Reed more than you”

I was sad at the passing of Lou Reed, although I’ve never been a huge fan.  But of all of the eulogies, I knew that Neal Pollack would write the best one.

Neal Pollock is a wonderfully pompous “character” (who is the main character in most of the writing of his that I have read).  This article—while much briefer than most of Pollack’s short pieces—is an honest eulogy of Reed, but is also a hilariously over the top profession of fandom.

When Pollock heard the news of Reed’s death, he was polishing the acetate of his producer’s cut of Metal Machine Music.  He wept, mostly for himself but also “on behalf of all cultured people everywhere.” (more…)

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believerA few years ago I was visiting my friend Roman.  He asked me if I read The Believer.  I told him I hadn’t heard of it.  He silently reproved me, knowing that it would be right up my alley and being quite displeased that I wasn’t keeping up with the hip.  I was very impressed with what I saw.

The Believer is put out through McSweeney’s.  It seems to have filled in for the non-fiction niche that McSweeney’s slowly removed from its pages.

And since then, I have become a devoted follower.  At some point (probably around issue ten or eleven) I decided that I was going to read every word in every issue.  And so, (this was pre-kids) when I went to an ALA conference with Sarah, I spent a lot of the down time reading all of the back issues’ articles that I hadn’t read.

Since then, I have read every issue cover to cover.  The thing that I love about the magazine (in addition to all of the stuff that I would normally like about it) is that every article is so well written that even if I don’t care about the subject, I know I’ll be interested for the duration of the piece.  Whether or not I will go on to read anything else about the person or topic is neither here nor there, but when I’m in the moment I’m really hooked. (more…)

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