Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s a grab bag of Twin Sister and FaltyDL, with the figurehead of Philip Glass. Listen to Twin Sister, FaltyDL and Philip Glass and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
So who else is excited about this column being all about mid-’90s hardcore and This American Life?! Just me?! Bummer! Turns out Ira Glass and Devoid of Faith have a lot in common: a total disdain for corporate corruption and its bulldozing of decency in our communities. This week’s This American Life has a completely devastating story about Magnetar, the hedge fund that sucked out billions and billions of dollars from our community so that their principals could go buy European antiques. Fuck you forever. Or, if I was Devoid of Faith, who I listened to for a good while on Sunday, I would say: That empty baggage you’ve held onto so tight will turn into fossil either way. Chances are they weren’t talking about the banks’ credit default swaps, which, after they failed, we had to pay out with our bailout, but they might as well have been.
Okay, so I lied about this column turning into a sad dedication to aggressive music and National Public Radio, though apparently this is where my heart lies. But, as I’ve learned, the heart and head are two different entities. So while my dog is sick and my grandfather is sick and seemingly only loud men yelling and/or very analytical takedowns of fat cats is an appropriate macro soundtrack, there have been some wonderful moments of micro delight in my listening rotation lately.
About a year ago, I wrote about how the jokey phrase “I hate music” borne from a general overload and inability to separate my heart and head in listening. The best songs find the right way to mesh those organs, but often the business of listening you need your brain much more than your blood pumper. It’s a lucky moment when you’ve won over both. That happened last year when I began listening to Philip Glass’s “Serra Pelada,” a bubbling track of kid chorus, wood block and pretty insistent crossing guard’s whistle. A year ago, it made me lose my mind. All heart! And, about a week ago, I finally found the record. So pumped! In honor of things coming full circle, here are two not hardcore records, not Philip Glass records and not This American Life episodes I have been bumping the last week that are connecting all parts of my insides:
Twin Sister, “Milk and Honey”
Last week a friend IM’d me a link to some electronic music. I really like electronic music. Lots of it. I’ve written about a bunch of it in our magazine and on our website, follow what late teen post-dubstep nerds in the UK are doing on computers they built themselves in their parents’ houses in between pimple pops. The perpetual fear and occasional curse of making digital music is that it can remain lifeless, even if it is a crazy jam, as one of these tracks was. But it felt thin, without any lifeblood to marinate in. Wow this sounds really bad, actually (Confidential to Philip Sherburne: sorry!) but do you know what I mean? Last night I was at a punk show, a DJ didn’t save my life. But tonight I’m heading home to watch Lost. Somewhere in the middle there’s got to be some hearty respirator (I did not mean to go in so hard on the lifeblood metaphors). Anyway, so Twin Sister, as I said here, I first heard on a roof two weeks ago. It was too cold to be on the roof, so we were wrapped up. Twin Sister was playing a couple neighborhoods north that night at midnight and we were debating going. I knew I wasn’t going. Who was this Twin Sister, anyway? I’d heard their name and knew a few fancy music business people would be checking out the show (I see you). But on a roof in the cold, with their meandering drone parts, it was not that interesting. And, you know what, with headphones on, on the train, those meandering drone parts are not that interesting. Sorry! Six minute skitter of “Galaxy Plateau,” totally not necessary. Chop that shit down to the really sick last thirty seconds and make it a proper intro to the next song. Still, I preordered the record. And that is mostly because of the first bit of “Milk and Honey.” Well not mostly, but that’s a pretty ideal part, as much as any of the others and probably my favorite. Okay, cue cute sad melodica buzz and raspy lady: I think it’s time I bought you a suu-uuu-it/ The jacket fits right, the lining is woo-oo-ool/ I do try to look good for you/ If you loved me you would try, too. And this is where that electronic music stuff comes in: it’s hard to write a love song without lyrics. And it’s hard to have love without a person involved. The one who sings the lyrics. Not saying you can’t! But here, with this vaguely Egyptian post-punk guitar wanderings, is the raw expectations that you might look nice and inject some pride in your relationship. I’m no clotheshorse, but the details are important. So, what I’m saying, it seems, is that this song makes me think about myself. Hahahaha no not exactly even though it kind of does. Which is good! Self-reflection is cool. But think about it: The jackets fits right/ the lining is wool. Simple concepts, but those are things said from one person to another. I’m glad you look nice and I want you to look nice because I care about you.
The XX, “Islands (FaltyDL Remix)”
One way that the electronic music folks have found to combat the digital malaise is to put in little bits of vocals. When house music started and it had not become so predominantly vocal-less, the digital rhythms were just as much backing tracks as their own electronic blazers. Often the full R&B verses on a track were god awful (I’m [sometimes!] looking at you Fingers Inc!), but sometimes they were a happy gathering (I’m looking at you Robert Owens! Get yours!). Sometimes, they were just a clipped bit of speech unraveled around a bouncy track at regular intervals. This concept of choppy vocal sample is something that became hugely prevalent in all genres of electronic music (What up really aggressive ragga jungle? Oh not much, Schnipper, just hanging out here up in 3000 BPM territory with our staccato yelling and hyperspeed “Amen” break). There is Baltimore club, acid house, drum and bass downtempo… Infinite electronic genres love the snippet, including dubstep. Burial, the genre’s most well known artist, and very possibly its best, used simple samples often, quelling the dramatic quaver of the R&B songs he cribbed from, making “couldn’t be alone” from a Ray J song (remember, he is Brandy’s little brother and he has a sex tape with Kim Kardashian) sound incredibly dramatic and brutally sad. His brand of deconstructed drum structures and crisscrossed bass lines moved an entire genre out of the club and into the crappy basement, the kind of home at 4:30AM drunk at home, strangely content but somewhat alone moment that is ever familiar to most young people. It’s in that English basement that The XX recorded their wonderful debut album, a rock band masquerading as an electronic group, drum machine backbone and unspecifically emotional lyrics from a soft sounding man and woman. The open air of the group’s sound has made them fertile remix material, a plethora of producers trying their hand at potentially bettering something gently near perfection. Most of them have not succeeded, though their source material is so lovely the new versions are never that bad. FaltyDL’s remix is the lucky exception. He grabbed the vocals, both male and female, giving a bottom echo repetition to “I swear” and “ever have to leave,” before darting little bits like potpourri. He also uses tiny little drum sounds, like the accompaniment to a long Indian raga, little puddle taps of percussion. It’s a quick song, under four minutes, with one quick, medium complex drum loop throughout, though no feeling of repetition. There are maracas, a little bit of blubbery bass, some singularly used lyrics. It’s not sad. The original is a love song, a little tentative. This is familiar, quick. If The XX and Burial and emotional dubstep producers are from a lovelorn place, a rocky relationship place, a clubhouse with no members, this remix is lazy Sunday in bed. That’s just how I like to spend my weekends. Who wants to be uncomfortable and lonely? Sometimes it’s nice not to feel upset.