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.
Peter Schickele, “Funeral Oration from ‘Julius Ceasar'”: from the sublime to ridiculous… A doo-wop funeral oration based on Shakespeare.
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.
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.
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.
Marillion, “Essence”: a track off of Marillion’s brilliant new album. Just
go buy it!
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.
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?
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.)
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.