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Learning to Crawl, or The High School Yearbook Syndrome

Learning to Crawl, or The High School Yearbook Syndrome published on 5 Comments on Learning to Crawl, or The High School Yearbook Syndrome

Last night I started doing something that a number of people have been recommending I do for quite a long time: seriously pare down the number of free downloads on my site, and start shifting the focus more towards the music I have commercially available.

A very large chunk of the music I’ve had for free on my site has been based on the Echoplex solos I’ve been doing since very late in 2001. Listening back to the earliest, super-glitchy solos, about two years after the fact, feels a lot like going back to the titular yearbook and grimacing at the hideous haircuts, acne-ridden complexion, and general awkwardness of the whole thing.

This sort of syndrome is fairly typical amongst musicians, of course, but in the case of those early 2000’s Echoplex solos, I was truly (re) learning how to crawl – I knew I didn’t want to play ambient music, but I didn’t know exactly what I DID want to do. Hearing that stuff now, with the relative objectivity that the passage of time can offer, I can see where people who were familiar with Disruption Theory would have been profoundly freaked out by the uber-glitchy Echoplex stuff – some of that stuff is a pretty tough listen.

It’s all been very worthwhile, of course – when I finally found a new voice with the EDP, it allowed me to tap in to a lot of my musical influences in a completely new way. It was, not coincidentally, at precisely that point that I knew it was time to make a new CD, which was a good call – Normalized has helped generate a level and intensity of interest that I’ve never experienced in any other manner. That, as much as anything else, is reason enough to put the emphasis away from downloads and onto CDs – it’s not just a question of making some money from the dissemination of my music, it’s the fact that the most musically successful stuff I’ve done is on the CD’s.

And working with the EDP again finally got me out of self-imposed studio hermit purgatory and back on stage in front of living, breathing people, playing the guitar. The live performances I’ve done since I finally got my proverbial s*** together with the Echoplex have been some of the most gratifying shows I’ve done in any phase of my life. After having spent some years utterly absent from gigging, trying to piece together music on hard disks, it’s a relief to know I can walk on stage with a guitar, an amp, and one EDP, and hold my own on bills with full electric bands.

Certainly, the entirety of the last two years of my professional life (and a substantial amount of my life in general) would be utterly unrecognizable without the role of the Echoplex in my work. Perhaps someday a tell-all, behind-the-scenes account of the early 2000’s looping scene will be made. I simultaneously smile and shudder at the thought.

Furrowed brows and scratched chins

Furrowed brows and scratched chins published on No Comments on Furrowed brows and scratched chins

Guitarist-musician-thinker extroardinaire Charles Morogiello has posted a lengthy and amusing dissertation on his most recent gig. It dovetails into some ponderings about reconnecting with musical roots, the codification of aesthetic parameters and their impact on how people might steer their own creative impulses in response… you know, the sort of thing that electric guitar players with art school educations like to ponder in their blogs. 🙂

Have a gander – it strikes me as something of a companion piece to my previous blog post. Then have a listen to the sound clips of Mr. Morogiello’s band Kiss The Frog. The show I did with them back in September of 2002 remains the most fun I’ve had during a solo show in recent memory, and the last couple of gigs of theirs I’ve seen have been extremely engrossing and fun listens.

In other news: A Bay Area gig or two with the inimitable Brian Kenny Fresno looks highly likely for early Summer, as does an LA show a couple of months after that. I’ve also received an invitation to interview for a teaching gig later in the year which could be very cool; my fingers will be crossed for that. And in the immediate future: a “straight-edge” recording, intended as a demo to show that I can actually play music other than my own flipped-out solo work.

It’ll basically be me doing all the things I’m afraid to do when I’m making an “Andre LaFosse” album – that is, play songs, with melodies and discernable structures and recognizable stylistic reference points. No, this isn’t “my new album” – it’s a long-overdue document of things I can do outside of “my own thing,” intended in large part to show other musicians (and prospective clients or employers) that I won’t turn every project I play on into an avant-garde deconstruction.

It may well end up being the most readily-accessible music I’ve done in ages, which of course I’d only allow myself to do because “it’s not really MY music.” Or maybe it’s a pathetic musical mid-life crisis. Either way, it should be interesting.

The Strokes are the Wynton Marsalis of Rock

The Strokes are the Wynton Marsalis of Rock published on No Comments on The Strokes are the Wynton Marsalis of Rock

Here’s a proposition: the current retro/garage rock craze (Strokes, Vines, Jet, White Stripes, etc.) represents to rock what the neo-traditionalist jazz movement, as exemplified by Wynton and the like, represented to jazz about twenty years earlier.

Think about it this way: the early-80s neo-trad jazz scene was immediately predated by fusion, which was arguably the most radical departure for jazz up to that point. Fusion took the popular rhythms and instrumentation of the era (rock music and electric instruments) and injected it with a melodic and harmonic sophistication unheard of in rock. It was wildly popular for several years (groups like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever were playing sports arenas in their heyday!), but also drew the ire of traditionalists and purists, many of whom felt it was a bastard spawn of two incompatible musical worlds.

When the next wave of jazz came about after fusion, it was dominated by players who were looking back some 20 or so years for their principal reference points; in the case of people like Wynton, they were principally concerned with tapping into influences that had largely happened before they’d even been born.

Now compare that to rock music over the last decade. Prior to the “new rock revolution” of retro-garage rawness, the dominant movement in mainstream rock was rap-metal. Much like fusion before it, nu-metal took the popular rhythms and textures of its own era (hip-hop, samples and turntables) and merged it with more “musicianly” elements. Bands in this genre had tremendous success in their heyday (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Disturbed, etc.) but are now largely looked at as a blemish on the history of rock music, just as fusion was viewed in relation to jazz.

In each case, you had an older, established genre of music merging with the newer, more youth-oriented one, producing a hybrid that took the older genre arguably as far away from its origins as it had ever gone. And following that, the older style of music entered an era of unprecedented neo-traditionalism, with the younger generations of musicians consciously looking back at the historical legacies of their own music, and deliberately writing/playing in an “authentic” manner.

I don’t write all of this to try and make a case for or against this sort of thing, but to draw attention to the parallel patterns of development that occur in different forms of music, at different times. The whole issue of working within a specific style, and defining one’s own creative gestures based upon conscious (or unconscious) adherence to pre-existing genre parameters, is one I think about a lot. So it’s intriguing to me to see the same sorts of patterns at work two decades apart, with completely different generations of musicians and listeners.

As far as what this signifies for rock music, I predict that you’re going to see an increase in a lot of what’s already happening. Younger musicians consciously defining themselves within the aesthetic parameters of well-established styles, and older bands moving more towards the model of touring as established live draws with long-running legacies to support them (as opposed to albums of new material which get ignored by both band and fans alike after the obligatory promotional tour for that album has ended).

In a lot of ways, I think it marks a shift in rock away from detatched post-modernism and ironic stylistic cutting and pasting (a la so much of what happened in the ’90s) and towards a trend of more emotionally direct and sincere statments – which are, themselves, consciously swathed in the frame work of historical precedent which is being embraced and practiced, rather than deconstructed and poked fun at.

If you’re thinking this is far too much thinking to be giving rock music, I’m starting to agree with you. Now where’s my Echoplex…?

"Prove that you are a human"

"Prove that you are a human" published on No Comments on "Prove that you are a human"

…was the final instruction in the registration page for this blog. It’s meant to screen out automated programs, of course, but it’s quite a question to be dealt with in the literal sense, too. Just how does one go about proving that, I wonder?

So the idea of starting a blog has been alternately intriguing and distasteful to me for a long time. Distasteful because the idea of a “public diary” is an invitation to narcissism on a colossal scale – the kinds of things I would write about in a diary are not necessarily the sorts of things I would want to share with the rest of the web-surfing world.

But I like the idea of a presence on the web that can exist outside of web site updates or mailing list postings. And I enjoy being able to check the blogs of people I know or respect – it’s a cool way to see what’s up with someone in a quick and easy way. Beyond that, I’m keen on changing things around in my day-to-day existence – so I’ll give this a shot and see how long it lasts.

“Prove that you are a human”

“Prove that you are a human” published on No Comments on “Prove that you are a human”

…was the final instruction in the registration page for this blog. It’s meant to screen out automated programs, of course, but it’s quite a question to be dealt with in the literal sense, too. Just how does one go about proving that, I wonder?

So the idea of starting a blog has been alternately intriguing and distasteful to me for a long time. Distasteful because the idea of a “public diary” is an invitation to narcissism on a colossal scale – the kinds of things I would write about in a diary are not necessarily the sorts of things I would want to share with the rest of the web-surfing world.

But I like the idea of a presence on the web that can exist outside of web site updates or mailing list postings. And I enjoy being able to check the blogs of people I know or respect – it’s a cool way to see what’s up with someone in a quick and easy way. Beyond that, I’m keen on changing things around in my day-to-day existence – so I’ll give this a shot and see how long it lasts.

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