Friday Random Ten, December 19

  1. Olivier Messiaen, “Turangalila – Symphonie: II. Chant d’amour 1”: This
    was an unexpected wonderful surprise. A few years ago, my older brother gave me
    a book on Stockhausen, who is a fascinating guy on an intellectual level, but
    whose music I find absolutely unlistenable. The book talks about Stockhausen’s period studying with Messiaen. I was expecting Messiaen to be another one of “those 12-tone guys”; I’ve never been able to develop an ear for 12-tone. But I decided to give Messiaen
    a listen, and was amazed. He’s not exactly an easy listen, but it’s beautiful music. It’s
    very dissonant, frequently atonal, and yet melodic. This section of the symphony is extremely dramatic, almost theatrical. It’s really a beautiful piece of music.
  2. Peter Schickele, “Funeral Oration from ‘Julius Ceasar'”: from the sublime to ridiculous… A doo-wop funeral oration based on Shakespeare.
  3. The Tempest, “The Winning Game”: What a great song! I’ve lately totally fallen
    for “The Tempest”. It’s a group that started as a collaboration between Andy Tillison and Roine Stolte. They’ve got members from Tillison’s old band (Parallel or 90 degrees),
    Stolte’s band (the Flower Kings), and Van Der Graff Generator. It’s some of the best
    neo-progressive rock you’ll find anywhere. Stolte later left their band, which resulted
    in a serious change in the band’s sound, but both before and after Stolte, they’re
    an amazing group, with wonderful compositions and absolutely dazzling performances.
  4. King Crimson, “Frame by Frame”: One of the things that King Crimson has been
    able to do is to combine some of the most far-out experimental progressive rock with
    some wonderfully catchy, easy-to-listen-to pop songs. This is a great example of that;
    Frame by Frame is a very catchy poppy song, and yet it’s incredibly deep and complex.
  5. Porcupine Tree, “Dislocated Day”: some older Porcupine Tree. PT did one
    really wacky album of mostly very long-form neo-progressive tapestries. This is off
    of that album.
  6. Marillion, “Essence”: a track off of Marillion’s brilliant new album. Just
    go buy it!
  7. Isis, “Holy Tears”: what were the odds that I could get through a FRT
    without some post-rock? Isis is a post-rock band on which leans towards the
    heavy-metal end of the post-rock spectrum. They’re terrific – great composition,
    great performance. They do sometimes use vocals, which is fine; but a bit too
    often, the vocals are distorted shrieks. This track uses a bit of that; it’s OK
    in moderation; in fact, I really like this track a lot. But listening to too much
    Isis at a time, that use of shrieking growl vocals gets to me.
  8. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, “Misunderstood”: I used to be a huge
    Flecktones fan. But I despise Jeff Cofflin, the saxaphone player they added
    a few years ago. I just simply cannot stand to listen to the guy – he’s absolutely
    awful. He’s incredibly predictable – the guy’s got the creativity of a
    a small rock; he knows how to play at exactly one volume – too damned loud;
    and he’s in love with stupid gimmicks. He’s playing on this track, so guess
    what I think of it?
  9. Tony Trischka, “Hawaii Slide-O”: interesting that this came up in the shuffle
    right after Bela. Tony is Bela’s former banjo teacher. (I’ve taken lessons from Tony
    as well; Tony is a great guy who’s happy to give lessons to anyone who’s
    interested.) This track is Tony experimenting with playing slide banjo. Back when
    I was taking lessons with him, I heard an early version of this track – he was
    showing me what he was working on at the time, and he’d just started playing with
    a slide on the banjo for the first time in years. Tony is a fabulous musician,
    and I love everything on this album. (In fact, I can’t think of anything Tony’s done
    which I haven’t loved.)
  10. Rachel’s, “Where have all my files gone?”: more post-rock, this time from the
    classical end of things. Rachel’s is an amazing group. This is very typical of their
    sound. Very atmospheric, beautiful.

0 thoughts on “Friday Random Ten, December 19

  1. ngong

    Wow…thanks for turning me on to Messaien! Turangalila evoked some spontaneous chuckles.
    I’ll be working my way through the rest of your list.

  2. Avi Steiner

    Have you listened to messiaen’s quartet for the end of time? It’s a wonderful piece exploring his idea of eternity that he wrote while in a Nazi prisoner of war camp (not a concentration camp).

  3. Joe Shelby

    I’m tied for my favorite on the new Marillion album between Essence and Man from Planet Marzipan.
    In hindsight, I don’t see Somewhere Else all that strongly, aside from the title track (which I adore). It’s like Somewhere Else would be a great album…except it’s between Marbles and Happiness, both of which are so excellent as to overshadow almost anything.
    Conductor Sir Simon Rattle produced a 7 part documentary on the classical music of the 20th Century, and Messiaen was a key piece on the chapter/episode on Color, extending from Debussy and Ravel. He used Tarangulila as the main work for Messiaen and I promptly had to get a copy the next day!

  4. Thony C.

    As a teenager I had the pleasure of attending a live performance of the Turangalila at the Royal Festival Hall in London in the presence of the composer in honour of his sixtieth birthday and featuring his wife on piano and his sister in law on the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument that sounds a lot like a Theremin. It was a mind warping experience that led me to buying a lot of his very beautiful music.

  5. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    No, I haven’t listened to that yet. I just purchased Turangalila about a week ago, and that’s the first time I ever listened to Messiaen. I’m going to go order the quartet right now :-).

  6. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re Joe:
    I never liked Somewhere Else. Nothing on it ever grabbed me, and I almost never listen to it – it gets listened to less than any other Marillion album other than the dreadful “Holidays in Eden”. I think it was a very mediocre album.

  7. apy

    If you haven’t heard of them, check out Russian Circles. They are kind of like Isis (although I don’t think as good).

  8. Chris

    One of my favorite things about Isis is the somplicity of it. when you deconstruct the music into component layers, there’s deliberately no technical virtuosity, just solid music and texture.

  9. Hank Roberts

    Agreed on “Quartet for the End of Time” (which I think I learned about from a Tom Disch novel).
    Listen the first time before you read anything about it.

  10. Mike

    Ahh, thanks for reminding me of “Frame by Frame”. Takes me back to the 80s when I’d cruise around in my ’72 240Z listening to “Discipline”. Mind-blowing stuff.

  11. Paul Schofield

    More a long the line of Isis, Cult of Luna are pretty obvious, but slightly more obscure are Rosetta. The core of the band is very like Isis (the vocals are very screamy, actually hardcore derived, but fit well), but they use a lot of layered ambient. As in entire ambient tracks in the vein of Jesu combined with post-rock/metal/sludge tracks.


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