Hey there, 10 in the morning! How’s it going? I know, we don’t usually meet like this; honestly, I can’t believe I’m even writing this early in the day — me who usually posts mere minutes before it could no longer be considered the day he was supposed to update his blog on.
It’s a blissful coincidence, though, that’s brought us together today. How perfect that Tuesday is Blog Day, the only day I don’t have to be at class before noon, and this Tuesday is the day Infinity Shred decided to drop their new album on our upturned, salivating faces.
Infinity Shred, if you’ve never heard of them, is the somewhat-reinvented and renamed version of Starscream, the guys behind the brilliant Future, And It Doesn’t Work. The title track off that album was featured in the credits of Christine Love’s also-brilliant Digital: A Love Story, and that’s how I originally found out about them.
The mailbox has been seeing a lot of extra use this last week. The real one. You know, for those like… physical, paper e-mails things they send sometimes. I think they call them letters. It’s also where the magic stork drops off the stuff you buy on eBay. I’ve been getting two or three of those a day — all with my name on them. And they’re full of — you guessed it — Magic cards!
It’s only been… eight months?… since I rediscovered Magic, and now I’ve actually got around to fulfilling the promise I made to myself back in January. I will finish that deck I started in middle school. It will be playable. And I will use it in… let’s say at least one game. Let’s start small.
I remember being read a story when I was a kid. Nothing about the plot or the characters — what I remember is the ending, and it’s stuck with me for something like two decades. The story ended… by not ending. Not just by leaving questions unanswered or threads untied, but literally telling the reader, “Now you come up with your own ending!” You might laugh if I say that to me it was a moment of profound frustration, disappointment — even betrayal. But it was. I can still remember how disturbing it was to me and how lost I felt; I can still taste the bitter, confused anger all these years later.
I’d spent literally minutes with these characters (Hey — at that age, minutes feel like days!), and now this book wasn’t going to tell me how it all ended? Would I never find out? Would I live with this unresolved tension for the rest of my life? I don’t want to make up an ending! I need to know the real one!
I admit this without shame: for me, Alice in Chains is — like a disturbing number of things in my life, come to think of it — forever tied to my experience with Doom.
Everything comes back to Doom. It is the great wellspring from which all nerdlove flows. When it comes to Alice in Chains specifically, Doom was that pushy matchmaker friend, pestering both parties despite all protestations, dragging them closer even against their will — until Alice in Chains and I came to realize we’d loved each other all along.
That was sort of a weird metaphor. Okay, let me ‘splain.
And now for something completely different…
I haven’t written any music-related posts since last November, to my surprise and slight disappointment. All that time listening to weird and wonderful albums without giving you fine folks a single glimpse into that weird world I love so much. To compensate for the drought, let’s dive into the absolute weirdest thing I’ve listened to in the past few months: Tomorrow, In a Year. (It’s the music from an opera about Charles Darwin. So, uh… yeah.)
I went on a major Knife kick recently. Their latest album, Shaking the Habitual, dropped in April and while it did scratch that Knife itch, it made me even more curious about their lesser-known stuff. See, I got into The Knife through their live show, which absolutely blew my mind when I discovered it. (It’s one of the few live recordings that frankly sounds better than the album versions of the same songs.) From there, I went back and checked out their three LPs, and then sort of called it a day, so what I missed out on was a fairly obscure soundtrack they did for a film called Hannah med H and, more recently, a solo album and collaboration project.
Last weekend, I took a step away from the computer — away from the videogames and the internet and the blogosphere — and into a world I’ve never seen from the inside before. I went to see (wait for it!)…
And by a play, I mean one of those things where you go to a theater and buy a ticket and sit with a bunch of people and… and watch real actors act in real time. It’s like a movie except the actors are right there in front of you. A play. I know, right? They still do those!
In the age of DVRs, YouTube, and hundred-million-dollar Hollywood films, I’m not sure it occurs to many people these days to go see a play. I’d never been to one in my life, but one college production of Boeing Boeing later, I’m salivating for more of this thing they call a play.
Well, I’m fresh off a Black Rock Shooter marathon. So let’s talk about it. Is that cool with you? Okay, sweet.
So there’s this anime called Black Rock Shooter. Hey, hey — don’t leave yet. I know the title is silly, but don’t write it off just ’cause of that. In fact, from this point on, let’s refer to the series by my unofficial title. I think it’s much more fitting. We shall call it Mood Whiplash: The Anime.
I think that about sums it up. Really — I’m still not sure what the heck I just watched.
Black R— I mean Mood Whiplash: The Anime is half middle school drama and half off-the-wall sci-fi/fantasy madness. The story is literally split between two worlds — Kuroi Mato’s ordinary, modern Japan; and Black Rock Shooter’s wasteland of eternal suffering. Yeah, it’s weird. On top of weird, characters are the exact opposite of predictable, it gets darker than you might be ready for, and it goes places you don’t really think it’s going to go.
And it’s weird. Did I mention that?
I used to be way into Magic: The Gathering. I didn’t have a whole lot of cards; I didn’t have the money to buy them, but I used to play as much as I could. More than that, I sorted and shuffled and thought about Magic, and that’s where most of my love for it comes from.
I spent hours and hours putting together decks back then (some of which barely got played). The theming of decks was always more fun to me than the strategizing. As a result, most of my decks were designed less around winning and more around sticking to a theme: the bird-drake-dragon deck, the goblins-and-fiery-destruction deck, the zombie-and-rat-apocalypse deck. And even if I always lost, I had fun doing it.
The last time I played was in the eighth grade. So, yeah, it’s been a while.
This is what it sounds like to be inside my head — for the past few weeks, or maybe a month or more. Not that anyone was scrambling to know what it sounded like in there, but I felt like sharing just the same. Interloper is, at least for the moment, the soundtrack to my life.
The Carbon Based Lifeforms guys are masters of ambient music, but this album in particular grabbed me and refused to let go. It’s almost like the halfway point between Enigma and more formless and ethereal ambient works. Interloper is still quite corporeal. The beats are tangible and weighty. The vocals, sparse as they are, are real and human. You can feel the structure and the evolution of the sound, and — even if you lose count a few tracks in — sense the transition between songs. I suppose that’s what I’m saying: that Interloper is still about songs, even while it constructs one cohesive, flowing soundscape. It teeters on the knife edge between shape and shapelessness.
You could say that’s why it’s so easy to get lost in, so easy to find meaning in, and so easy to connect to. Interloper feels the way I think. Contradictions run through the soul of the album. It ushers us into an empty, lonely world, and yet it manages to be inviting, full of life and warmth.
In 1990, Enigma came out of nowhere bearing gifts unlike anything eager listeners had heard before. MCMXC a.D. was the first album from this mysterious newcomer, and it made some impressively sized waves. It took over a decade for those waves to reach my quiet corner of the world, but when they did, I was in for quite a ride.
In my early teens, with no allowance and no job, my options for expanding my musical horizons were awfully limited. This was before Pandora, before you could find just about every album under the sun on Youtube, so the only way to stride out into that brave new world of music was through sharing, whether among friends — still drastically limiting what you had access to — or through the internet. And the latter is where I found Enigma.
The name was well-chosen. The music was as mysterious as the entity. I say entity because it wasn’t a band, but a project. Enigma was the brainchild of one man — Michael Cretu — and even that would have remained a mystery if he hadn’t been obliged to reveal the name behind the music because of some related legal troubles.