Thursday, December 07, 2006

I May Be An Idiot, But I Answer Another Letter!

Here is a nice letter from someone named Scot with one t:

Gary, I like that you are doing a show about electronica but I thought I would ask -- why do you like electronica? I am not a big fan myself but I like to ask people why they like it. Do you mind??

I don't mind, but you should know there's a story behind it. It begins (as everything does) in the womb.

That's not true! It begins around the time I learned to read. I loved reading, & I read everything. & when I discovered music, I focused not on the music itself, but on the words. It made perfect sense that the music I loved tended to have words that were silly, or clever, or just deep enough that I could waste time thinking about what they meant. (An example is the song "Rocket Man" by Elton John - as an eight-year-old I was fascinated by the idea of a "rocket man" as a job "five days a week." Or in John Lennon's "Come Together" - the obvious of "one & one & one is three" baffled me in a delightful way.)

So when songs like the ones I played in my Brief History Of Sampling show started to come about, I was far more interested in the samples than the music. Though, let's be honest here - I had already made a decision about the music. I rejected commercial crap pretty quickly, & that included metal, synthetic "soul," & mainstream "country" music. So I did care about the music in its way, but I might not have liked a record of, say, Cure instrumentals as much as The Head On The Door.

Somewhere in my early-to-late twenties, I started listening to jazz. Jazz teaches you a vocabulary of something other than words, & if you start (like I did) with early jazz & Big Band, they sneak it at you, first with songs with singers, then slowly eliminating the singers entirely.

Finding electronic music, samples & all, intriguing, & having a small but growing background in jazz, set me up for what came later - hanging around people who love electronica. I worked in a place where we fought over the background music - it was a video store - & lots of the music a couple of the clerks played was electronic. I was in a position where, to listen to what I liked, I had to spend some time listening to what the other workers liked. As is usually the case when the music is good, I discovered I really liked a lot of what the others liked. & they weren't listening to "house" or "techno" - it was electronica that wasn't made for dancing. (Amusingly, this is called IDM, or intelligent dance music.)

After that, my own scavenging obsessive nature took over, & now, even without the vocals, I listen to a lot of electronica. Since I am verbally-oriented, it's great to listen to when I am doing something like writing. Or when it's late & dark & your thoughts are your own. Or, of course, when you wanna dance.

& yeah, a lot of electronica still has words. But most of what I'll play tomorrow does not.

Thanks for the letter! Anyone can write me anything!

& if you're still reading: I have recently put up last week's show, & two recent subbing gigs - the Elk Mating Show & the Lounge Show in German - on my archive page. Go have a listen!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Whither Gary's Favorite Electronica 2006?

Yeah, spill it. Why do you do one entire show on electonica & another show which (presumably) will contain your favorite rock, indie, indiepop, comedy, jazz, hiphop, country, kazzo music, show tunes, hardcore metal, hardcore pornography, & Christian music? What makes electronica so fucking special? Hunh?

I know you don't really care, but it's sweet of you to ask.

It's primarily because I really do listen to a lot of electronic music, but I hardly ever play it on my show. Why don't I play it more? There are a lot of reasons, but the two main ones are these:

1) I kinda like my shows to be quick, quirky & upbeat; a lot of the electronica I listen to is, unlike the common idea of electronic music, not really "dancey" or "beat-driven." Some of it is, but sometimes I am forced between sticking a gorgeously beautiful (but slow) electronic piece in the middle of two ridiculously bouncy indiepop songs or not playing it at all. A lot of the time, I forgo the electronic piece.

2) Since my shows are based on themes, & since a lot of electronic pieces are instrumental, the only way a lot of them can fit the theme is for the title of the piece to relate somehow. But electronica performers love to title their songs with silly words, made-up words, nonsense words. It makes it hard to attach them to a piece.

As an example, here's a track listing from a record by a prominent electronic artists, Autechre, who don't have a record out this year, but who were on my "best of" last year.

Xylin Room
Theme of Sudden Roundabout
VL Al 5
Reniform Puls

I'll work on my show about "V-Proc" just as soon as I find other songs about it. Any other song. Maybe I'll write eighty minutes worth of songs about it.

I should also point out (since I made the argument myself, I can easily rebut myself, sucka!) that the situation with having one day for electronica & another day for "everything else" is kind of misleading, since I don't really listen to "everything else." I pay almost no attention to commercial rock, pop, country, hiphop or soul. I don't listen to a whole lot of world music or jazz, & most of what I listen to of that is usually older when I get to it. Bands that a lot of people think of as alternative - like the Flaming Lips, let's say - I will still check out, but usually (I've found) critics & others tend to find their work exceptional because it's decent (& better than the majority of commercial radio crap), but they haven't heard everything else out there - they're really not digging deep enough. What my "favorite music of 2006" will doubtless focus on is indie rock, indiepop & some other stuff generally in that genre. The other stuff, like I said, I usually get to later. To my eternal shame.

There isn't enough time!

By the way, I found a website which apparently rates every album released during the year, although I'm not sure how. It's got a thousand album that came out this year listed (astonishing!). (The website is Here are the top twenty:

01 "Ys" Joanna Newsom
02 "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards" Tom Waits
03 "Ashes Against The Grain" Agalloch
04 "Blood Mountain" Mastodon
05 "American V: A Hundred Highways" Johnny Cash
06 "A Matter Of Life & Death" Iron Maiden
07 "The Crane Wife" The Decemberists
08 "No Heroes" Converge
09 "10,000 Days" Tool
10 "The Drift" Scott Walker
11 "Return To Cookie Mountain" TV On The Radio
12 "Modern Times" Bob Dylan
13 "Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour" Dream Theater
14 "With Oden On Our Side" Amon Amarth
15 "Okonokos" My Morning Jacket
16 "Live At The Fillmore East" Neil Young
17 "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" Bruce Springsteen
18 "The Great Cold Distance" Katatonia
19 "Pure Reason Revolution" The Dark Third
20 "The Life Pursuit" Belle & Sebastian

Like with any kind of list - especially an anonymous one - it's important to take such conclusions with a grain or twelve of salt - but this list is especially intriguing for the weirdness of the amount of what I guess is hardcore or metal (eight, or nine if you count The Dark Third, which is a prog band) & the fact that Scott Walker's new record is tenth. Two of the records are by musicians who I feel are utterly irrelevant & I wish they'd stop making music & retire to their estates (Dylan & Springsteen), & two are basically re-releases or posthumous collections (Young & Cash). I reserve the right to withhold judgment on Tom Waits, although his last few records have been pretty dull. So I'll listen to the new one eventually - I just can't believe it'll make my favorites list.

In fact, there's only one record in that list that'll make my favorites. It's easy to know which one that is, especially if you know I don't really like TV On The Radio or My Morning Jacket, & that I found the new Decemberists record incredibly disappointing.

What is it? Find out a week from Friday. This week, though, it's all about the electronica.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Preface To Gary's Favorite Electronica 2006: Beep Beep Beep Beep

People who are still talking to me often ask me why I separate "electronica" from "other music" when I do my "best of" (now called "favorite") shows of the year. The main answer for this is because I hardly ever play electronica on my show during the year, & I listen to a lot of electronica. But I can talk more about that tomorrow.

I don't have Attention Deficit Disorder but sometimes when I am typing, my eyes get hung up on a word. For example, the word "separate" up there. I know I spelled it right, but suddenly, after writing it, I was reminded that, when I was in 6th or 7th grade, & some mean English teacher corrected my misspelling of the word, it occured to me that there should be different rules for that word based on pronunciation. So, if you were going to use it meaning "apart," as in "separate beds," the regular spelling should apply; but if you were going to use the verb form, as in, "We were separated at birth," it should be spelled with an e instead of an a at the second vowel: seperate. Besides, it's how most people spell it anyway.

Nowadays when I write it like "seperate," it looks completely wrong. Thinking of how my 6th or 7th grade mind works, I think I was trying to make the spelling conform to the pronunciation, but I was a syllable too early - it should have been separete & separate.

That has nothing to do with electronica, it was just on my mind. I am perhaps too easily distracted, & the "anything goes" nature of this "blog" format makes it easy to go off on tangents. For example, I just realized I am using a lot of quotation marks in this entry, when normally I might italicize something to make a point - so I'd put the previous sentence this way: I am perhaps too easily distracted, & the anything goes nature of this blog format makes it easy to go off on tangents.

No, I was right to use quotation marks. Italics are not conveying the meaning I intend. Which also reminds me, a friend of mine who is otherwise rational-minded & relatively sane started sending me emails with emoticons in them. Out of the blue. Like he'd just discovered them. What's up with that? How long have humans been writing email back & forth? Surely he's seen an emoticon before. Maybe he's just being ironic. I hate it when he does that. I'd prefer him to be contrarian. He's a snob anyway.

This post was going to be a grand history or electronica, stretching back to the days when it was invented by ancient Greek sailors hanging out in North Africa with drum machines & synthesizers, back with Socrates was the hottest deejay in Athens, then moving on to the renaissance of Italian house with Galileo & his fucked-up rave culture, when kids would star into the sun for hours, & finally making some incredibly poignany comments about how, when the robots finally destroy us, human-made electronica would be as meaningless to them as whalesong is to us. I had a lot of this planned, & some great works to cite (including long passages from Shakespeare's "Dance Motherfucker Dance"), but I got distracted. I'm sorry.

Maybe I'll talk more tomorrow?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Magda's Birthday Haiku Wrap-Up

Well, Magda's birthday came & went, & another weekend was spent in the slammer, & I have two new tattoos given to me by strangers while I was out cold. One of them is a picture of Magda appearing to bite the area of my body where the tattoo is, & the other is a picture of a pretty young man which those in the gay club scene refer to as a "twink." The funny thing is, I didn't have any alcohol at Magda's party, but she is fond of drugging me & putting me in places (usually naked) where hilarity may ensue. That's why I love her!

Alas, no one wrote any birthday haikus, so I had to solicit entries from my children, who wrote haikus for their mother below. I must point out that the second-place winner did NOT follow the rules correctly, so the judges, who also happened to be the writers, were not given any treats during the weekend.


If it’s your birthday
& you have any cake left
You will give it me.


I hate birthday cake
Unless it’s made from carrots
Ice cream on it too.


Cake, ice cream, whatever
Just leave food unattended
So I get to pick


Shut up, everyone!
It’s mommy’s birthday today!
Show her you love her!

This week's show will be my favorite electronic music of the year, & if you would like to write a haiku about it, you just have to go here.

Birthdays are hazardous to my health, I think.