Discover more from Deep Voices
Deep Voices #66
This is your life!
As I mentioned a few months back, I recently wrote a piece for the New Yorker about grief and music—or, more generally, sound. The ideas for that essay came from the editions of Deep Voices I published after my son’s death. They helped me process and heal. And explain why Robert Wyatt’s voice and basically all techno all of a sudden sounded totally tone deaf. Well, with apologies to Robert Wyatt, I’m happy to say I’m going to expand that essay into a memoir, Rise Above, for Random House. The book will be about grief, yes, but how to survive, about how to find peace, and maybe even happiness. Music has been a big part of this journey for me and, as I continue to listen, I keep learning how much grief has influenced so much of the music that formed me. Spent any time with “JC” lately? It’s humbling and inspiring to see what people in pain created to help get them through.
Expect the book some time…in the next few years? And if anyone has any tips on writing a book, let me know. Never done it before! Seems hard.
Anyway, I’ve got a mixed bag for this week’s Deep Voices. Good news: I think it’s all not depressing for once.
I’ve wanted to put Ishi Vu’s “This Is Your Life” on a playlist for a while, but it doesn’t mix particularly well. The song starts off kilter, like it’s righting itself after tripping. Or maybe getting shoved. There’s a melody that sounds like an alarm and then someone yells with great desperation: “This is your life!”
That someone is in fact Angela Bassett. The vocal sample is lifted from a scene from Katheryn Bigelow’s 1995 movie Strange Days, where Bassett has Ralph Fiennes pinned up against a wall. She’s at her wit’s end with him. “This is your life! Right here, right now! It’s real time! It’s real time, you hear me? Real time!” She’s pleading with him to stop watching other people’s memories, something in the film that is depicted as being somewhere between binging on virtual reality and a heavy drug addiction. “This is your life! Right here, right now!” It’s a great movie. But in the song, even without the techno-dystopian context, her desperation, her need, her desire, her care, they all come through. Get it together while you still have a chance. Carpe diem, dude. Have you been seizing the wrong shit?
Arthur Chambry’s album La Suez is one of the stranger, most pleasing records I’ve heard this year. It’s a “jazz” record? With singing. Maybe some klezmer undertones. Or post-rock. Each song is different, a tasteable rainbow of dweeby funkiness. Like if Lalo Schifrin did the Mission: Impossible theme after getting dumped because he was too introverted. He’d be relieved, maybe a little sad, but ready to jump into his true passion of sexy film scoring without distraction. The Chambry song I put on the playlist, “Au Lointain” has a bit of mystery to it, brass that announces itself tentatively, vibes that ask the brass some clarifying questions. The tension is never resolved. It’s nerdy, it’s exciting, it’s self-satisfied. It’s great music for doing big Lego sets. Great music for practicing tai chi. Great music for confidently wearing a turtleneck. Great music for going to France but definitely not speaking the language. Great music!
Angelika Köhlermann’s 2002 album Care is maybe not so dissimilar in spirit from La Suez. But just spirit not sound. It’s in the way that it’s the unique vision of a talented weirdo. Care is a bedroom pop record, I guess? Half of it feels like a goof, half of it feels like she had the ambition to make a Velvet Underground record. Sometimes it feels like both of those things. What I’m trying to say is that it’s nerdy and sweet and true and I love it. “Where Are You” feels like a lost indie classic with its rudimentary drum machine, fuzzed out guitar, and angelic murmurs. Is she even singing words? It doesn’t matter; you can feel her honesty. Speaking of honesty, it’s honestly sad to me that this song is 21 years old and I just heard it.
To make his album blue forty-six, Dane Law recorded individual notes on the guitar, fed those notes into the computer program Max, and then digitally arranged the samples into songs. If you’re not listening particularly closely (or maybe even if you are, to be honest), you’d miss that there’s no squeaking from his fingers running up and down the neck of the guitar, an inevitability had any of this been played by hand. Instead, you get a clean sound, sort of like the guitar was played as a hammer dulcimer. The final product is lovely! In a way, the technology erases the human touch, but in another way, once you know about it, the amount of work it must have taken to create such intricate compositions is inarguably human. What a cool trick.