Don’t You Ever Learn?

Foolishly, I decided to throw all reason to the wind, and ordered an LP from Amazon.

This is how it was shipped — in an 18 x 18-inch box, four inches deep, with no padding.

Miraculously, it wasn’t warped, or damaged.

I hereby resolve to NEVER order music from Amazon ever again.

If I lapse, and feel the urge to do so again, please feel free to slap me upside the back of the head.

Recent Acquisitions

Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat Genetic LP (Black Truffle, Australia)

Robbie Basho ‎Songs Of The Great Mystery 2xLP, clear vinyl (Real Gone Music, US)

Robbie Basho Venus In Cancer LP (Traffic Entertainment Group, US)

Roger Eno and Brian Eno Luminous 45 RPM EP black vinyl (Deutsche Grammophon, Germany)

Roger Eno and Brian Eno Luminous 45 RPM EP yellow vinyl (Deutsche Grammophon, Germany)

Ron Geesin Pot-Boilers Ron Geesin Soundtracks To Stephen Dwoskin Films 1966-1970 LP (Trunk Records, UK)

Gone Beyond, Mumbles ‎Notes From The Underground LP (Content (L)abel, US)

Jon Hassell Seeing Through Sound – Pentimento Volume Two LP (Ndeya, US)

Inventions Continuous Portrait LP (Temporary Residence Limited, US)

Joy Division Closer LP, clear vinyl, 40th anniversary remaster) (Factory, EU)

Takashi Kokubo Digital Soundology #1 – Volk Von Bauhaus LP (Glossy Mistakes, Spain)

Less Bells Mourning Jewelry LP (Kranky, US)

Mariah Utakata No Hibi 2×12″ (Palto Flats, US)

Quiet Places Volume 1 2xLP (A Strangely Isolated Place, US)

Arvo Pärt Works For Choir Vilnius Municipal Choir LP (Cugate Classics, Netherlands)

Christina Vantzou Multi Natural LP (Edições CN, Belgium)

Taylor Swift “folklore”

This past Saturday night around 10:30 I was scrolling on Facebook, and a post by Clarice Jensen came up. She mentioned playing on the new Taylor Swift album.

I did a double take.

Jensen linked to an Instagram post by The National’s Aaron Dessner, who mentioned some other guest players, including his brother, Bryce.

I fired up Tidal and streamed the album. I listened to it twice, on headphones. I liked it. It’s a fairly easy-on-the-ears release. The songs are catchy.

A couple minor things did bug me during the initial listens:

    * The lowercase album title and song titles. Again, minor, but an affectation.

    * That track with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. As soon as the insufferable baritone drone made an appearance, I hit “skip.” I mean, we do need to draw the line somewhere.

The next night, I played the album loud on the living room hi-fi.

I began to notice other things.

This is a wordy album. The sounds are seductive, but the lyrics are foremost.

(there’s a lyric I want you to remember. It’s from the second song on folklore, and maybe the catchiest track, “cardigan”. The line is this):

When you are young they assume you know nothing

I think Taylor liked St. Vincent’s Masseduction — has it really been three years since it was released? — especially “Happy Birthday Johnny” and “New York”. Why shouldn’t she? They’re among the best songs on the album.

In “the last great american dynasty,” Taylor inserts herself into some history (and its attendant mansion). After the first verse, my partner, Kate, ran into the room and said “this is SO Imogen Heap!” Neither of us knew that Heap has written for/with Swift in the past.

After listening to the rest of the song, I played St Vincent’s “New York” for Kate. When the line so much for a home run with some blue bloods came up, I blurted “THAT’s how you write lyrics.”

I hear a lot of other things on folklore.

Pastiche predominates.

Such a variety of pastiche! And I keep coming back to the lyrics. Not FOR the lyrics. To the lyrics.

“betty” makes me think of the self-absorbed bedroom pop of Her Space Holiday. A couple of the songs come across like the deeper, more restrained tracks on Madonna’s Like A Prayer (listen to the final verses of “my tears ricochet” and tell me it doesn’t resemble a fuck-you-Sean outtake). Lines like “if I’m dead to you why are you at the wake?” sounds like something Mark Eitzel crumpled up and threw in the trash while writing the final American Music Club album.

And while we’re discussing song titles like “my tears ricochet” (heavy on the lowercase, there, brah) I have to address the on-the-nose quality of most of the lyrics.

“illicit affairs” reads like a one-woman call-and-response to Fiona Apple’s “I Know”. Listen to the Fiona track. Then check out Swift’s sledgehammer imagery on illicit.

The majority of folklore is delivered with a breezy, seemingly-effortless vibe, but the lyrics often come across as labored. Nuance, and subtle, impressionistic suggestion aren’t Taylor’s songwriting strong points. And when she drops in coy fucks and shits and so forth and whatnot, the cussing just feels forced.

“the 1”, “peace”, and ‘hoax,” among others, string together passels of clichés. In the latter, she rhymes “my best laid plan” and “your sleight of hand”. In “peace,” she chants “swing with you for the fences, sit with you in in the trenches,” tells us “the devil’s in the details” and coos about “the courage of [her] convictions.”

Swift neglects turning clichés against themselves; instead, she falls back on them as lazy emotional shorthand. And song titles like “this is me trying” aren’t helped by lines like “I got wasted like all my potential.”

“mirrorball” and “august” are video-ready dream-pop fluff, the lightest, easiest (and weakest) tracks, lyrically and musically. “august” is almost bailed out by Bryce Dessner’s deft orchestral swells towards the close, but ends up dumbed-down by rote typewriter rhythms.

So what’s to like about Taylor Swift’s folklore? What attracted me to it in the first place, that night I sat up in bed listening to it on headphones past midnight?

The melodies are engaging, and memorable. Swift’s voice and singing style are self-assured and compelling. The arrangements, production, and instrumentation are usually (and, sometimes, unusually) effective and skilled. The synth collage and SFX gremlins at the close of cardigan, for instance, are wonderful.

folklore will be a big success. The nearly-unanimous opinion among music critics is that it’s a masterpiece. It will attract new, adult fans — not just listeners who grew up with Swift, but grown-ups. Moms. Forty-somethings. Those new fans will include people who might’ve thought that Swift was overexposed, whiny, and predictable. Perhaps some (let’s call them hipsters) who like the album will do so for all the wrong, ironic reasons.

Followers who’ve been with her since the early days will find enough familiar “you didn’t love me and didn’t deserve me but you deserve this bile” material here.

There was a little game we oldsters would play when a new Joni Mitchell album was released, called “who’s this song about?” I wager Taylor Swift would like us all to do the same with her tunes.

Thing is: Joni Mitchell had a poetic soul, could turn a phrase, and paint a vivid, memorable portrait with her music.

folklore‘s wordage isn’t engaging or colorful enough to compel me wonder about the subject matter.

And oh — that lyric?

When you are young they assume you know nothing

Perhaps, however inadvertently, it turns out this line might not be just a pandering wink to her (previous) fanbase. Perhaps Taylor Swift’s next album will bring maturation: fewer clichés and overextended metaphors, and more artistic ambiguity and originality.

folklore, taken on its immediate sonic merits, is a good — not great — album. It works well on headphones. It sounds good in the car. Tap your foot, do the indie-folk sway, hum along.

Just don’t expect timeless lyrics.

Recent Acquisitions

Vinyl:

Gastón Arévalo Terrain 2xLP (A Strangely Isolated Place, US)

Cowboys International The Original Sin LP (Virgin, UK) (poly cover, used, replacement copy)

Erik Hall Music for 18 Musicians LP (Western Vinyl, US)

Motohiko Hamase Technodrome LP (We Release Whatever the Fuck We Want Records, Switzerland)

Clarice Jensen Drone Studies CASS (Geographic North)

Clarice Jensen For this from that will be filled LP (Miasma Portugal)

Fumio Miyashita SILENT ECHO Sounds of the Universe LP (Personal Affair, US) (reissue, first time on LP)

Fumio Miyashita WAVES Sounds of the Universe LP (Personal Affair, US) (reissue, first time on LP)

Noveller Arrow LP (Ba Da Bing! US)

Christopher Tignor Along a Vanishing Plane 2LP (Western Vinyl, US)

Katie Von Schleicher Consumation LP (Ba Da Bing! US)

YMO Technodon 2LP, red vinyl (Universal Music, Japan) (reissue, first time on LP)

Neil Young Homegrown LP (NYA/Reprise, US)

Digital:

Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat Genetic FLAC (Black Truffle, Australia)

Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat Land is Talking FLAC (self-released, Bali)

Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat Salukat-Gamelan Evolusi FLAC (self-released, Bali)

Roger Kunkel LEAKS FLAC (self-released, US)

Various Bedroom Cassette Masters 1980-1989 Volume X FLAC (Bedroom Cassette Masters, UK)

Recent Acquisitions

Vinyl:

The Durutti Column Vini Reilly 2LP+7″ (Factory Benelux, Belgium)

Gentle Giant Octopus (Alucard, EU) (replacement copy)

Gentle Giant Three Friends (Alucard, EU) (replacement copy)

Heaven 17 “[We Don’t Need This] Fascist Groove Thang” b/w “Decline of the West” 12″ (Virgin, UK) (used, replacement copy)

The Higher Intelligence Agency Colourform 2LP (Beyond Records, UK)

The Higher Intelligence Agency Freefloater LP (Beyond Records, UK)

Haruomi Hosono Philharmony SACD (Yen/Sony, Japan)

Rafael Anton Irisarri The North Bend LP (Room 40, Australia)

Rafael Anton Irisarri Peripeteia LP (Dais Records, US)

Clarice Jensen The Experience of Repetition As Death LP (Fat Cat, UK)

Jóhann Jóhannsson Last And First Men 2LP+Blu-ray box set] (Deutsche Grammaphon, Germany)

K Leimer Music for Land and Water | Complete FLAC (Palace of Lights, US)

K Leimer Semblance FLAC (Palace of Lights, US)

K. Leimer / Marc Barreca Chains Of Being LP (Abstrakce Records, Spain)

Bill Nelson The Jewel FLAC (Sonoluxe, UK)

Outer Circle Outer Circle LP (Bemisbrain, US) (replacement copy)

Renaissance Turn of the Cards 3CD+DVD box set (Esoteric America, US)

Max Richter Sleep Remixes (LP) (Deutsche Grammophon, Germany)

Steve Roach Quiet Music 1 LP (Telephone Explosion, Canada)

Steve Roach Quiet Music 2 LP (Telephone Explosion, Canada)

Steve Roach Quiet Music 3 LP (Telephone Explosion, Canada)

Wayne Rogers The Air Below LP (Twisted Village, US)

YMO Technodon SACD (Universal Music, Japan)

Digital:

AKATOMBO DISCORDIA 2003 – 2020 FLAC (So I Buried Records,Japan)

Quiet Music for Unquiet Times

In August of 2019, I contributed a playlist to Qobuz consisting of some of my favorite quiet(er) music. Below I’ve recreated most of the playlist with YouTube videos — with a hanging curveball or two thrown in.

Perhaps some subdued background (or foreground, even) sounds are called for during uncertain times.

You’ll find music from Brian Eno, Durutti Column, Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka, Keith Kenniff, Adam Bryanbaum Wiltze, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Gavin Bryars, The Dead Texan, Harold Budd, David Sylvian, Michael Brook, David Bowie, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Stars of the Lid, Arvo Pärt, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and others.

I hope these songs might not only pitch in to soothe you and your household, but also offer some possible starting points for the exploration of some artists that could… well, use more exploring.

Yours in music, always,

Paul

======================================

Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka Lion Theme

Nils Frahm Ambre

Keith Kenniff Everywhere

The Durutti Column Prayer

Max Richter On the Nature of Daylight

Jóhann Jóhannsson They Imagine the City Growing out Into the Ocean

Christina Vantzou Going Backwards to Recover That Which Was Left Behind

A Winged Victory for the Sullen Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears (live)

A Winged Victory for the Sullen Requiem For The Static King Part One

Gavin Bryars Ensemble The Sinking Of The Titanic (Live Bourges)

Brian Eno Fullness Of Wind (Variation On ‘The Canon In D Major’ By Johann Pachelbel)

Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie Lithium, The New Era

The Dead Texan When I See Scissors, I Cannot Help But Think Of You

Harold Budd and Brian Eno Not Yet Remembered

David Sylvian Home

Michael Brook Midday

David Bowie Art Decade

A Winged Victory for the Sullen Atomos VII

Stars of the Lid That Finger on Your Temple Is the Barrel of My Raygun

Hildur Gudnadottir Heyr Himnasmiður

Philip Glass Opening

Arvo Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel

Tioga Inn Resort proposal – Mono Basin / Lee Vining impact – Planning Commission virtual meeting this Thursday at 9am

(courtesy Mono Lake Committee)

Background:

The owner of the Tioga Gas Mart (the Mobil station/Whoa Nellie Deli at the foot of Tioga Pass, where CA120 meets US395) is planning to expand the operation to include a 100-room hotel, plus workforce housing for a further 150 people. These structures will be up to two stories tall and will be perched on the moraines overlooking Mono Lake. They’ll be visible from 395, South Tufa and many other highly-visited portions of the Mono Basin Scenic Area.

Lee Vining’s population in the 2010 census was 110 people. This development, if approved, could more than triple the population of the town. Light pollution and visual impact will be significant. CalTrans has stated it has no plans for traffic mitigation (for instance, a stoplight at 120 and 395). There are myriad other implications listed in the FEIR (link below).

The Mono Lake Committee and an apparent majority of citizens in Lee Vining — as well as hundreds of return visitors to the area — are opposing this development.

This is going to be a tough fight, and additional articulate, informed, and passionate voices are needed to speak out regarding the proposed development.

There is at least one upcoming Mono County virtual meeting* are two Mono County virtual meetings that will decide whether this development happens.

The first is the most urgent: this Thursday at 9am, the Planning Commission will decide whether to sent the project to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

** Details on joining the Planning Commission meeting this Thursday at 9am:

Accessible remotely by livecast at: https://zoom.us/join and by telephone at: 669-900-6833 (Meeting ID# for both is 634 770 837) where members of the public shall have the right to observe and offer public comment.

The Mono Lake Committee provides further details and suggestions for input here.

Mono Lake Committee Eastern Sierra Policy Director, Bartshé Miller, spells out MLC’s concerns about the proposed project here.

If the Planning Commission approves and sends the project to the Supervisors (and this seems likely)*, I’ll post the dates for the Supervisors’ public hearing — where the final decision will be made — on this blog.

Project Description and final subsequent EIR can be found here.

Thank you for your engagement on this manner of great importance to Lee Vining, Mono Lake, and the Eastern Sierra.

— Paul Ashby

* UPDATE April 14 9:45 pm: I’ve since learned that the Planning Commission’s yea or nay vote on the matter is non-binding. Meaning a majority voting ‘no’ still means there will be a Board of Supervisors meeting, where the latter will have the final say.

* UPDATE April 18: The Mono County Planning Commission voted 4-0 to approve the proposal and send it to the Board of Supervisors. More info can be found on Mono Lake Committee’s website.

* UPDATE April 27: The full 7-hour 30-minute stream of the planning commission meeting (including all public comment) has been posted.

Recent Acquisitions

Vinyl:

Blinkar från Norr Metaphors for Things 2LP (A Strangely Isolated Place, US)

BPEOPLE BPEOPLE LP (Faulty Products, US) (replacement copy via LAFMS)

Califone Echo Mine LP (Jealous Butcher US)

Cross Record Cross Record LP (Ba Da Bing! US)

Durutti Column M24J (Anthology) 2LP+7″ (Factory Benelux, Belgium)

Roger Eno and Brian Eno Mixing Colours 2xLP (Deutsche Grammaphon, Ger)

Aoife Nessa Frances Land of No Junction LP (Ba Da Bing! US)

Fruit Bats Echolation LP (Jealous Butcher, US)

Inoyama Land Danzindan-Pojidon LP reissue (‎We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Records, Switzerland)

Merrin Karras Northwest Passage LP (A Strangly Isolated Place, US)

Bill Nelson Sounding the Ritual Echo LP (used) (Cocteau, UK) (replacement copy)

Ocoeur Everything LP (n5MD US)

Rodelius Selbstportrait Wahre Liebe LP (Bureau B, Germany)

San Kazakgascar Scar Tissue 7″ lathe cut (Lather Records, US)

Tim Rutili | Craig Ross Guitars Tuned to Air Conditioners (Hired Hand, US)

youbet Compare & Despair (Ba Da Bing! US)

Digital:

Higher Intelligence Agency Colourform FLAC (Beyond Records UK)

Higher Intelligence Agency Freefloater FLAC (Beyond Records UK)

Julia Kent Green and Grey (Expanded) FLAC (Leaf UK)

Bill Nelson The Jewel FLAC Sonoluxe UK)

Yoshio Ojima Une Collection des Chainons I and II: Music for Spiral FLAC reissue (‎We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Records, Switzerland)

Loscil, Ocoeur, The Cure, Be Bop Deluxe – Reviewed on Part-Time Audiophile

As far as I’m confused, those Cure guys put out a couple okay LPs, but a certain Be Bop Deluxe album must’ve left somewhat of an impression on my sixteen-year-old self.

I also write about new releases from Loscil and Ocoeur, as well as those two older vinyl reissues by The Cure.

A Wizard / A True Star was released 47 years ago today

… and Patti Smith’s review (Creem, 1973) still hits all the right notes.

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