Sound Starved

I’m marooned at my desk. Sound starved. My headphones are at home so I sit with the toxic mixture of noise that leaks out of the office speakers like steam from a manhole.

What I want is a sonic Equinox. A place where I can work my neurons, sweat out the boredom, scrape off the plasticity. I crave wavelengths of sound. Release!

But as the end of the day approaches I begin to understand something. Resisting the impulse gives me a sense of control. I’m a general deploying troops.

The impulse changes and it’s no longer just sound I crave, but music. And hours later after I’ve biked home in silence, I turn on Tame Impala and skate through a misty neighborhood. Quite possibly the music sounds better than before. It’s more substantial. Louder. It jolts me into a mood.

And for the rest of the night I’m entranced by music. FKJ, Maribou State, Galimatias. A friend puts on Tor’s Origin Mix 01 and whatever plays seems to fit the scene.


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Roosevelt – Fever

It’s hard to believe but The Aftermath is over four years old. Four years? That’s surprising considering my attention span rarely lasts more than a few hours. Countless ideas have been dropped, switched out, forgotten. But for whatever reason The Aftermath prevails.

In that four years I’ve started to notice patterns. Which artists consistently pop up on news feeds? Who’s still around four years later effortlessly churning out music?

Roosevelt.

We’ve blogged them again and again and again. And they show no signs of dissapearing. I give you Fever.

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Sweet Alchemy

I bought a girl a rose this weekend. It was on impulse, a last-minute apology, a chance to stick out from the other glassy eyed guys offering her shots. It was also her birthday.

I gave her the rose, any edge of embarrassment blunted by the requisite surge of shots I slugged before the Uber. She inhaled, smiled, thanked. We talked, she laughed, I drank.

The night sped and the bar surged around us. Around her. But she remained motionless, rose gripped in one hand, clutch in the other. Friends and strangers extended dancing hands and clouded drinks, but she reproached all comers.

Behind pretty eyes, hesitation scintillated. The ugly trio of self-pessimism: doubt, fear and loathing guarded her every movement. Those bastards seep through even the heaviest masks of makeup.

Thirty minutes later she was gone. What she’s looking for I do not know, but it won’t be wrought from the sweet alchemy of another night, another bar, another round. This, at least, we have in common.

As my roommate and I made to leave, I saw the rose, slightly battered and entirely forgotten on the sticky bar top. I took it with me and gave it to the Mexican girl working the midnight shift at the burger joint down the road. She tucked it behind her ear.

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Moderat – Running

“Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.”

Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” plays over the office speakers for the third time. We have the top 40 Pandora station going and underneath the cyclical chorus you can hear bursts of typing on bouncy keyboards and the click, click, click of tabs being closed, emails opened.

Boredom can be lethal. It sinks into your bones and makes you soft with complacency.

But fuck, there are anecdotes for this madness! For me, it’s music and writing. A thought provoking paragraph or an unexpected house beat lets creativity seep back into my brain and cools off my head.

And one sound that I can always count on for revival is Berlin-based, Moderat.

Back in February 2015 WalterCronkTight broke down Moderat’s sound, attributing it to their Berlin roots – a lingering culture desire to perfect the synthesizer, fine tune the reverberations of a speaker, and push sound beyond its auditory boundaries.

In March Moderat released their third album, III and I approached it with caution. I didn’t want any preconceived notions to color my experience. Was Moderat really that good?

Yes.

Once again they defy conventional sound. It’s house-y, trance-y, a tribute to the purest form of German techno. But it’s also fucking catchy, and I find myself singing along in a Taylor Swift-like falsetto.

Check out the music video for Moderat’s single, Running, and let it push you to the creative brink…

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Strumming the 6 String

Last Halloween I tied a rope around my six-string as a make shift guitar strap and threw together a last minute Kurt Cobain costume. I used what was at my disposal – an orange flannel, ripped jeans and dirty high tops. But without his white bug eyed glasses, a blonde wig, or a pack of smokes, I made a terrible Cobain.

It was Halloween and everyone was drunk, so no one cared much. And after several hours of sipping PBR’s and 1800 at a friends house, we headed off to a bar. Rather than haul my dusty old Ibanez from bar to bar (kidplay us a song!), I left my guitar in the corner of the living room, planning to retrieve it later. And there it sat for six months. Alone. A decorative piece in someone’s living room. Upright and still. Unplayed and underutilized.

The Ibanez and I have some history. She was a birthday present from my parents when I turned thirteen. Right away I took to her, learning the basics from UltimateGuitar.com. My mom used to find stacks of printed sheets next to the printer – future songs to learn.

As a kid I secretly wished I had a Gibson Les Paul or a genuine Fender Stratocaster. The Ibanez was part of any “learn to play guitar” starter kit. But as we’ve grown older, making trips to Upstate New York for College, California for lord knows what, she’s become weathered. There are a few chips on the topboard from scraping up against doors and chairs and the strings are rusty and worn and easily slip out of tune. The body feels familiar on my knee.

Last weekend, my girlfriend retrieved my dusty old 6 string while helping a roommate move out her stuff from the Halloween apartment. Me and the Ibanez were reunited and it felt like rediscovering a long lost color, your favorite in fact – one that you hadn’t painted with for months. Old songs and pentatonic scales began flowing out of my fingertips and I smiled as my brain stretched relearning the old pathways of G, D, C, Em, A, Am.

Once again I was in front of the computer screen, looking up guitar tabs. This time it was the Bahamas, a self taught guitarist from Canada who has reinvigorated my love for acoustic music.

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A song for strolling

There’s a phrase in the film industry you may be familiar with – location scouting. It’s the process of actively seeking out unique and interesting settings during pre-production. It’s difficult work and requires a keen eye. Maybe a scene opens at a pet shop/aquarium in San Francisco’s Richmond district? Maybe our hero lives in an abandoned lighthouse on an island in Maine? Whatever it is, location scouting is not something that passively happens – it requires action.

The same thing can be said about discovering characters. It’s difficult to create someone from scratch, relying on the limiting perspective of your own thoughts. And to capture just how interesting, just how strange, just how dynamic and unpredictable human beings really are, we need to get outside of ourselves and experience the raw, true source of all the details that make characters live and breath – we need to wander and observe the strangeness all around us.

Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

So, recently I’ve used my lunch breaks to go character scouting. I stroll down the streets and alleys of the financial district with my hands in my pockets and my earbuds set to Back Seat Loungin’and look for people wandering from point a to point b.

A homeless man flicks a cigarette in my direction. A stylish black man tells me in a cheery voice, “Keep on goin’ man!” A tattooed man silently gets arrested. A middle aged woman cries on her phone.

There’s so many people here that would make excellent characters. And every day I seem to notice more, as I start to actively look and not just see.

Here’s a great song for strolling: