Thursday, March 08, 2012

someone on ILM came up with a neat tag for Grimes: "Cranes with a laptop"

there's quite a lot of this vibe about in music at the moment--late 80s, wispy, ethereal-girl, 4AD/Cocteaus/Dead Can Dance/Cindytalk... what I call Goth-Lite (non-derogatorily: I prefer it to Goth-Heavy)

my end-of-year thoughts touched on the emerging overlap between the New Exquisite and the New Religiose

Julianna Barwick... Julia Holter... Sleep ∞ Over... The Deeep... School Of Seven Bells

a vague reaching out to the Transcendent/Otherworldly/Celestial/Spiritual.... the not-everyday, the non-earthbound... sometimes accompanied by actual scholarly knowledge of myth, ritual, culture before the Modern Era...

the hallmark: those pure airy vocals, more often than not wordless, or blurred to the point of indecipherable... multitracked into a choir-of-one... warp 'n' wefted... tapestried... heavy on the reverb ... where plainchant meets enchantment

the sound of the Ineffable... being effed

i don't think the intent is particularly retro or to hark back to anything (other than to the pre-modern or primordial)... but clearly it's influenced by the late Eighties... and it can't help reminding of that moment, if you're of a certain vintage yourself

where late 80s post-Goth/4AD-type stuff connects to current conditions of music-production is that Goth-Lite was primarily studio music, it was all about layers, sound treatments, effects... it broke to large extent (see also: A.R. Kane, who I suspect may become a reference point pretty soon) with the performance model of rock recording (Cocteaus DCD et al did play live, of course, but their live shows were attempts to duplicate the textural richness of what was concocted in the studio, rather than the other way round: the studio recording as attempt to simulate/approximate the energy of a live performance). So obviously that translates to the solo artist + digital audio workstations in a bedroom scenario of today, where live performance is an optional afterthought to careers created through blog-buzz

artificial reverb, that other hallmark of the New Religoise, figures as an irresistible temptation to producers looking to add "space" to recordings that are otherwise by their mode-of-construction a bit airless and dry

along with the outerspace/innerspace associations of the "sonic cathedral" effect... the cavern as a site of rites

of course Grimes is actually a 4AD recording artist now, isn't she?

it's a good listen, her first album for the label, Visions -- atmospheric-yet-catchy... the filigreed detail appeals to digital ears listening through computer speakers or iPod buds

Grimes talks about her work as “both an ethereal escape from, and a violent embrace of, my experience. The creative process is a quest for the ultimate sensual, mystical and cathartic experience and the vehicle for my psychic purging. Visions was conceived in a period of self-imposed cloistering during which time I did not see daylight.”

a tangential question: how viable is the notion of "visionary" in digiculture?

thinking about how anybody with a laptop and some digital audio software can access near-infinite possibilties in terms of the plasticity of sound and timbral transubstantiation... led me to CGI and how unsatisfying it is for the most part, so vivid and real-seeming it is actually numbing ....

it feels like some kind of fundamental, near-ontological gulf separates that kind of digi-wizardry from the analogue-era illusion-as-craft approach to special effects that led to "Strawberry Fields Forever" and 2001, A Space Odyssey alike

analogue-era trompe l'oreille/trompe l'oeil sleights seem to have the capacity to take you through "i can't believe my ears/eyes" into a mindstate where you suspend disbelief and make a leap into acceptance that what you're seeing/hearing is actual, a real event.... a magical mindstate

digital FX, through being so hyper-realistic and shimmeringly micro-detailed, have a different effect--they put you into a state where belief is beside the point
... a disenchanted mindstate

but this is a description, not an explanation