See what I’m hearing: 6 Album Listening Log #2
Despite now being in Rochester, New York, my apartment still looks like it did when I lived in Berlin. The floor is barely visible below layers of Learn-German-B2 CDs/books, arrangements I need to finish, and various other projects or odd-jobs I’ve been working on. Rheumatoid arthritis has made going on walks more complicated, so my music listening habits have changed alongside my lifestyle.
That’s why I enjoy the few hours I spend every week running errands, because it allows me to take time to think and listen to music. I tend to designate specific places for my listening habits, whether it be for reviewing my own pieces or listening to new albums.
So naturally with this new climate and this new routine comes a new set of music that I’ve been enjoying lately. In the same tone as my last two listening logs, I will highlight 6 album or pieces that have stuck out to me.
(these aren’t in a particular order)
- “crying duo” (2009) by Mattin & Taku Unami
- The variety of work that Taku Unami has put out in the past few years is hardly paralleled (even within the Erstwhile records roster), so I wasn’t surprised when I was speaking about him to a friend and found out about a performance I hadn’t heard before. It’s a recording called “crying duo” which he did with Mattin, and it’s strangely beautiful. Crying is obviously a very cathartic and oftentimes hard thing to hear, but taking time to just let the sounds interact is strangely soothing—listening to this is kind of like listening to falling rain.Listen to: the whole thing
- Field Guide (2015) by Sarah Louise
- I would say that my recent intake of Americana/”American primitavism” was due to feeling a bit culturally isolated in Germany, but it’s always been a steady part of my diet. Probably the best folk album I’ve heard recently, Field Guide is a very modern forlay into this genre, combining exquisite imagery with virtuostic playing. To be honest, I haven’t been this struck by an album of this nature since I first heard John Fahey’s Blind Joe Death.Listen to: “The Day Is Past And Gone (Variations), Extended”
- The Life of Pablo (2016) by Kanye West
- Oh Kanye, what an ass. Although I have always admired his intense concentration of confidence and sense for justice (“George Bush doesn’t care about black people”), it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify his personality with his music Musically speaking, though, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the first hip-hop albums I was very interested in and today it still is in my list of albums that have drastically influenced me. That’s what has always given Kanye’s arrogance justice: he’s actually very, very talented.The Life of Pablo had a terrible release rollout (and reportedly isn’t even finished), but was definitely worth the wait. Kanye takes the disjointed public persona he has represented and makes it palatable, using a great sense of timbre, pacing, and rhythmic flow to create an album that sheds moments of beauty as much as it reeks of tiny flaws and embarassing moments. The best music for me is typically about that pull between beauty and dissonance, and Kanye thoroughly pulls it off.Did I also mention Caroline Shaw is on it? Her brief collaboration on “Wolves” sounds great, especially with that quarter-tone taper at the end of the phrase.Listen to: “Ultra Light Beam”
- Clockworking (2015) by Nordic Affect
- Featuring a host of Icelandic composers, Clockworking is a really nice assortment of pieces. It stands out to me because it is able to house a variety of idioms and techniques, but retain a uniform sense of weightlessness throughout. Starting off a bit trite (and what feels like it will just be another “classical meets ambient indie-classical” venture), it gets better as it goes on, definitely one of the more interesting chamber music albums I’ve heard recently.Listen to: “Shades of Silence” and “2 Circles”
- Philosophy of the World (1969) by the Shaggs
- A very peculiar album (especially historically) with an even more peculiar backstory, Philosophy of the World has become a cult-classic, and not for no reason. Personally, it’s always been able to please me—it takes the simplicity and vocal style I love from a lot of pop music of the 50s/early 60s and fuses it with the type of abstractness I so admire in the songwriting in avant-garde pieces like Harry Partch’s “17 Lyrics of Li Po”. Whether it was intentional or not, Philosophy of the World sounds great and feels great, and that’s why I always keep on coming back to it. It still plants a thought for me, how people can be so confident (or not knowledgeable) in creating the music they want to, and accidentally spark a new tradition.Listen to: “My Pal Foot Foot”
- Reflektor (2014) by Stella Veloce
- Although it may be hard to sift through sometimes (read: most of the time), there is some really great music happening in Berlin. One of the composers that has stood out to me recently has been Stella Voce—in particular their recording Reflektor which has been accompanying me on aforementioned subway rides frequently. There’s something about the jagged and abrupt nature of the guitar writing mixed with the fluency of the percussion—it proves to be addictive to my ears, and while the little information about the piece (it is just the isolated audio of a multimedia performance) makes me think I’m missing the full picture, what I’m hearing is more than enough to satisfy.Listen to: The whole thing
- Jake Bellissimo