Saturday, 18 April 2009

White Noise and Other Sounds

I've spent the last few days indoors working on my final papers. One of them is about the disappointment of the American Dream and the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo, an amazing book, one of my favourites. It is extremely funny yet utterly morose at the same time. It's basically about a middle class college professor, Jack Gladney, who teaches Hitler Studies and who is obsessed by the idea of death, living with his family and his fourth wife in an archetypal suburban American neighbourhood. A third of the way through the novel a man-made disaster, referred to as "The Airbourne Toxic Event," causes the town where they live to have to be evacuated, and Jack is exposed to a dangerous chemical derivative that forces him to confront his own mortality.

"No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

"The power of the dead is that we think they see us all the time. The dead have a presence. Is there a level of energy composed solely of the dead? They are also in the ground, of course, asleep and crumbling. Perhaps we are what they dream."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

"What good is knowledge if it just floats in the air? It goes from computer to computer. It changes and grows every second of every day. But nobody actually knows anything."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

"When I read obituaries I always note the age of the deceased. Automatically I relate this figure to my own age. Four years to go, I think. Nine more years. Two years and I'm dead. The power of numbers is never more evident than when we use them to speculate on the time of our dying."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

White Noise - New York Times Review

I've also just completed an essay on the legacy of slavery and the morality of affirmative action for my sociology class on ethnic notions and race relations in America. I am not very experienced with sociology so I am worried about whether or not I have produced something appropriate.

I have had enough essay writing for tonight so I am just listening to music at the moment. These are some of the new albums I've been enjoying recently:

Handsome Furs - Face Control

Handsome Furs are Dan Boeckner (also of Wolf Parade and Atlas Strategic) on guitars/vocals and his wife Alexei Perry on synths/drum machine. Their new album, Face Control, is stellar. Boeckner's guitar sounds like rusty metal cutting through bone. "Baby's out of step with the occupation/No one's gonna notice if you disappear/I've heard something about reclamation/Do anything you want but just not here"

Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows

Bell Orchestre are a six piece instrumental band from Canada, including Sarah Neufeld and Richard Parry, full-time members of Arcade Fire, and part time Arcade Fire member Pietro Amato. I saw the band live a few years ago when they toured their first album, Recording a Tape the Color of Light, at the University of London Union and they were fantastic. Their music sounds like travelling on old trains at night through the mountains, somewhere in Europe, while staring at the stars and contemplating romantic fire-lit nights that may or may not have happened.

Dan Deacon - Bromst

This album is pure bombastic noise overdose. I want to hear Red F blasting at earsplitting volume from an amazing soundystem, that would be the definition of joy.

Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light

This album is quite minimal compared to the first two, but I think stylistically the sparse texture works very well, particularly since the classical arrangements are beautiful, and Hegarty's songs are as emotive as ever, just less bizarre than the days of, say, Hitler in My Heart. I'm sure most of you have listened to this album already, but have you heard his cover of Bob Dylan's 'I was Young When I Left Home'?

Peaches - I Feel Cream

Only just had a listen to this, sounds good but slightly patchy. I love Peaches though, I think she's amazing, and I'm digging the Charlie Le Mindu wigs in the new video for 'Talk To Me.' I saw Charlie's show during London Fashion Week and it was great. Anyway, this new album has a lot less sex and a lot more electroclash.

Doves - Kingdom of Rust

I remember seeing Doves live nearly ten years ago supporting Travis. It was one of my first gigs, and I thought they were amazing. After the show I rushed to get a copy of both of their albums and used to spin them all the time. I don't understand why they aren't huge now. I prefer them to other stadium 'indie' bands like Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol. I think this new album sounds a lot like Hope of the States, another band that I used to adore but that never really took off.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

I don't think I need to say much about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love everything they have done. I think Karen O just breathing into a microphone is enough to make me wet. The new album isn't as fierce as their previous work, but there are some gorgeous songs on it, two of my favourites being 'Soft Shock' and 'Hysteric.'

Bonnie 'Prince' Billie - Beware

I was first exposed to Bonnie 'Prince' Billy by my friend Robin in Brighton. We were both quite depressed and sitting in her house not really doing anything when she decided to put the song 'I See A Darkness' on, from the album of the same name, because she said something like it reminded her of me. It brought tears to my eyes and made me simultaneously incredibly sad and incredibly happy. This new album isn't anywhere near as life-changing, but I still have a soft spot for Mr. Billie (real name Will Oldham).

Swan Lake - Enemy Mine

I've already spoken about how much I love this album in a previous post, so scroll down and have a look if you're interested. This is a brilliant album.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

I never really understood the hype surrounding Grizzly Bear. I missed out on a chance to see them at a small venue in London a few years ago, and now they seem to be pretty big, not least of all because they toured with Radiohead. One of the songs on the new album even reminds me of Radiohead. I still can't say I like them very much, but I'm still trying to get into them. To me they sound like Bon Iver with greater technical skill but less heart.

I will leave you now with an instrumental version of the unreleased track 'Burning Bridges Breaking Hearts' by Arcade Fire, that the band seemed to have either released or leaked to promote the release of their new film Miroir Noir. 'Burning Bridges' was one of my favourites for a while, but all I had was a live recording (see below) that I used to listen to over and over a while ago. Arcade Fire are one of my favourite bands, I've seen them numerous times now and met the band. They are wonderful people and they make music that makes me immensely happy.

Arcade Fire - Burning Bridges Breaking Hearts (Live)

Arcade Fire - Burning Bridges Breaking Hearts (Instrumental)

"we're burning bridges, breaking hearts/everything you taught us to do"

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