January 26, 2012

Vex'd - Degenerate (2005)

Vex'd - Degenerate (2005)
Rating: 6.5

As of late I have been throwing the word "degenerate" around a lot in regards to certain music and culture, and so as I browsed through my music collection for inspiration for what album to write about next, it seemed like the Vex'd album of the same name would be the perfect fit.

Music that embraces the "degenerate" culture I have railed against - but does it have its own merit? After a comment I received on my My Bloody Valentine - Loveless review, it made me wonder whether I have been reviewing the music itself or the culture the music came from. Of course, it is hard to separate the two, as music for as long as it has existed, has been infused with culture to a certain degree.

Vex'd represents the electronic and early dubstep culture, with hard-hitting, almost atonal basslines and harsh, rigid drums that have been written on a computer and copy and pasted over and over in a loop. No sign of organic life on this album, save for some ethereal synth pads that give the harsh computer music some depth.

But is there a merit to this style of music and culture? I gave Loveless a 0.0 because not only was it "aural dogshit," as I harshly, but rightfully said, but because it also represent a culture I disliked - a weak and degenerate culture, where one gazes at one's shoes rather than looking up at the sky for the answers to life's difficult questions. A subverting, emasculating culture in where men are urged to dress and act effeminately. As such, a perverted culture. Could music that exists in this culture be rated higher than 0.0? Yes, it is possible, and the reason Loveless was rated so low is because the music itself is bad, more than anything. But I digress..

The Degenerate represents another degenerate culture - one that embraces darker aspects of life such as drug taking. Am I a righteous man myself? Absolutely not, and none of us are without fault - but if nobody takes a stand against degeneracy then it only stands to grow. Like bacteria, if it is not destroyed it will spread further.

However, the Vex'd album is not as "degenerate" as its album title suggests and in that regard it does not meet its own objective standards. So how do I rate it - good, or bad? It's good because the music itself is better than it's title suggests it should be, it transcends the culture it has grown in. It's bad because it does not live up to the standards of that culture and sells itself short from that angle.

The track "Cold" is the perfect example of this. A menacing bassline seemingly taken from a complete song, but no drumloop exists, rather an airy, melacholy synth haunts the listener in the background, juxtaposed to the . Cold indeed, the music conjurs imagery of  broken electronics in a disused arctic military base, the unfinished diaries of a fragmented, skeletal ghost of a figure who sits in the captain's quarters. A forgotten crew left to freeze to death in some God forsaken place. Shreds of disfigured dub and reggae serve only to emphasise the cold robotics of the music, rather than bring the listener to the heat of Kingston.

As far as dubstep standards go, the production is outdated now and is outmastered, even out-degenerated by music such as Skrillex. But Vex'd have made music better than Skrillex, as while it is suitable for a dark, dingy dancefloor somewhere in a broken part of this confused world, it also has a private listening quality in its icy, hypnotic soundscapes. While most dubstep is disposable and instantly forgettable, Vex'd have created an album that has a memorable quality, with focus more on musicianship than technical standards.

January 23, 2012

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)
Rating: 0.0

As I put quill to parchment and started formulating ideas for music album reviews, thoughts went through my mind - what of my favourite artists' work shall I review first, and what score shall I give them.  I have just remembered the whole reason for a rating system, and that is to assess and evaluate the quality of music - all music, of all quality.

Of course, there are different ways to perceive and digest music, - music is social, music is reclusive. Music is what the listener wants it to be. As I have stated in past reviews, I believe there is an objective standard to music, but we all have our own subjective opinions on what that standard is.

I gave Mozart's Requiem a 10.0 in my very first written review and in a sense, it has become the measuring stick. So I asked myself, what about the other end of the spectrum?  What is a 0.0 album? The answer came to me instantly, and that was My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. If Requiem is a 10.0 for it's ability to transcend the listener to a state of Godliness and illumination, then Loveless is the antithesis to Mozart's divine work, music that is symbolic of soullessness and spiritual decay.

The worst thing I can say about Loveless is that it causes confusion when I listen to it. There is other such music that can cause confusion, such as free jazz - but free jazz has a context for its existence, a derivative of bop and modal jazz, and is often played with talented musicianship. It breaks the structure, but only after fully learning it. Loveless breaks the structure of music but has no context for it's disgust. An amalgamation of repulsive sounds that serves only to cause agitation in the listener with its unpleasant cognitive effects.

Even the term 'Shoegaze' that is related to Loveless and surrounding music, I question as to its effect on the listener, as much as the music itself. Shoegaze, gazing at one's shoes - it gives connotations of weakness and shyness, discouraging anyone who may be caught up in the pied piper's obscene melody to live a life opposite to that of a real man or woman.

I could go on, but to do so would be futile. Loveless, simply put, is pure fucking dogshit. The sad part is, many people enjoy the taste of this blend of dogshit.

January 21, 2012

The La's - The La's (1990)

The La's - The La's (1990)
Rating: 7.1

My second review and after Mozart and 1791 I return back to the present day, relatively.  Well, over twenty years ago.  But I also return from old Austria and to my beloved, fascinating hometown of Liverpool, England, for a little rock album called The La's, by The La's.

In case you did not know, "La'" is a Liverpudlian, or "scouse" term, short for lad, which all lads, or la's, call each other.  Around the city, it is often found at the end of every other sentence spoken, an unnecessary but affectionate term that punctuates dialogue between men. The point of me telling you this is that this album, this band, The La's is very localised music of a certain time and place.

While Mozart's 'Requiem' is eternal and Godly music, The La's is distinctly late eighties, early nineties northern England.  The coming end of Thatcherism, prolonged for a few years by John Major, and the rise of New Labour.  A country falling to pieces, an empire crumbling, leaving antiquated relics of a forgotten era, scattered evidence of former glory across the world. But spirits are high - especially in Liverpool, for at least the red half of the city, as Liverpool F.C. had just come off the back of two decades of dominance in football, winning their final league trophy til this very day in 1990, the same The La's self-titled debut came out.

The beautiful streets of Liverpool I grew up in, and its optimistic people.  A people so detached from the rest of British customs and culture, and quaintly so.  Liverpool and its red pride, not only in a footballing sense, but the communist undertones of the city's collective ideology.  The c-word isn't a dirty word in Liverpool (neither is the other c-word, too much), and strangely of all the cities in England for my family to find salvation from the former Soviet Union, Liverpool was the one they chose.  At least they fit in with the people, walking contradictions - but delightfully so.  And though I speak as if I am looking from the outside, I am scouser at heart.  To bastardise a local phrase - I'm scouse, not English.. not Russian.

The La's, more than any other band including The Beatles, represent what the city of Liverpool means to me.  The Beatles were from another time and another generation, another place altogether, their accents incongruous to the Liverpool I know.  John, Paul, George and Ringo certainly would not have called each other La' with a missing d.  Perhaps lad.  To me, The La's is the real Penny Lane, a bleak street, the one that comes off Allerton Road on the way into town, the turn-off near the old church.  The La's are my mum calling me in for tea while I'm playing footy on the streets with my mates, growing up and watching my beloved Liverpool F.C fall further behind Man United every season in the Premier League.

The music is jangling guitars and trackies, channeled sea shanties of a bygone period, a time when Liverpool was one of the world's major ports, it's docks bustling with life.  A gentle, friendly and timely sound with a hint of scouse eccentricity and madness in the playful, sometimes surreal and probably drug-addled lyrics of Lee Mavers.  Music that paints a picture of my childhood, memories reflected, but not that I listened to growing up.

And so it leads me to the question, how and why should I rate this album?  Who am I to judge?  As there is only one judge for us after all, which is God.  I gave it a "7.1", but what does that mean - the album is only 71% perfect?  Music, that as I have stated, is reflective of my beautiful childhood, of fond memories and of a glorious life I have lived thanks to the Lord.  Only worth a 7.1?  What does it even mean, exactly?

As I stated in my Mozart review, I believe there is an objective standard for art, but should all art be reaching for that pinnacle?  The La's is timely and local music, and save for serving as a historical document one day in the future, an artifact of another lost era in time, it has its own use-by date.  So why put a 7.1 rating on it?  I don't know why exactly, but there's more money in it.  People just like to put things in order.

January 20, 2012

Mozart - Requiem (1791)

Mozart - Requiem (1791)
Rating: 10.0

Sometimes when I listen to classical music, I feel so detached from the time it was written, a lost world that has long been buried, rotten away. But the year 1791 was a relatively short time ago if you put it into a historical context. 1791, the French Revolution was in its infancy, Europe was transforming more into the land we know it as today and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself passed on to the next world.

I play football every week and this afternoon I warmed myself up by turning the volume on my speakers up and letting the beauty of the Requiem flood all the rooms of my house. After getting everything I needed ready - my ball, my boots, my bottles of water - I turned on the shower and stood under the blast of hot water, basking in the glory of the Lord, the power of the music.  Precious droplets dripped from my nose, my eyebrows my lips, every one a wondrous gift from God. Even though I was enjoying the riches of this modern time, with the miracle of boiling water on tap, I was taken back to the year 1791 in my mind and to an unknown place of the universe in my heart, as I was with God. My face slumped against the wall of the shower. I felt as if I had reached a spiritual zenith, under the deluge of water, as the angels sang Lacrimosa.

There is an objective standard to all art, if you are a religious man. If God is perfect, and we as human beings are but animals, individual holy temples, with free will and the spirit of the Lord inside us all, then striving to make Godly art is one pursuit of perfection. That is why I give the Requiem a perfect 10.0 rating, because it is a complete, divine work. It is music worthy of our creator, and I am humbled and brought down to earth when I listen to it, but also elated and lifted to a celestial plane of spirituality and oneness with God.

Mozart is a genius, a word used lightly in our modern culture, but if you look at the etymology of the word genius it is undeniable that it applies to Mozart and his work on Requiem. It derives from the Roman belief of "genius", in that there is a divine essence in every human being, animal and thing on earth.  Mozart was in touch with the most righteous and Godly aspect of his soul when he wrote the Requiem, his genius.  You can tell as its devotional, ethereal refinement transcends you to another world, a state of wonder and amazement.  You don't just listen to the Requiem, you experience it.

But Mozart did not even write the whole composition himself.  The Requiem was an unfinished work of his before his death of the same year and it was finished by a relatively unknown Austrian composer by the name of Franz Xaver Süssmayr.  Still, it is the work of God, vicariously, through man, whoever wrote it, and so it does not matter who dipped what quill into the inkwell.  If God took Mozart from us before he finished this divine work, then whoever completed it was destined to by the Lord himself.  The Requiem, the music God intended everyone on earth to hear.

About my blog

For the past few weeks I spent a lot of my time contemplating what to do with my life, often in long, deep thought, frequently finding myself at a dead end. There was no distinct path that jumped out at me as something I wanted to do, and I even tried doing voluntary work as a writer for a web design business in hope that it would lead to a job. I quit on the first day after it turned out they wanted me to be a living, breathing, soulless spambot.

The one thing I kept coming back to in my thoughts was my passion for writing. Writing, however, is often an unrewarding feat - the problem of course being that whatever you may write and with whatever amount of heart you put into it, nobody cares to read it. Apart from perhaps a few close friends and family.  And even then, you have to force half of them into the act of reading it, as if taking their eyes off Facebook for just a couple of minutes is too much to ask of them.

After much consideration and my failed voluntary work experiment, I decided I had to overcome my defeatist attitude. And so, here, my blog is born. Luckily, my surname was available as a username on Blogspot - Serderov - so I registered it and now here I am, writing my first entry.

The plan for this blog is for it to be a collection of personal music reviews, though I might review films and books later as well. I will not be going down the ordinary route of music reviewing, as I find that boring, tedious and unnecessary. If I wanted to read a description of the music, I would save myself the hassle of doing so and listen to the music instead.

The first reason I am partaking in this endeavor is in hope that a writing career of some sort will take off and my writing skills will flourish overall. I have worked every piece of shit minimum wage job under the sun and been fired from half of them. Being a quiescent, obedient pawn for a big company is not what God intended for me on this earth, I believe.

A learned man called Chaim once said to me that the real Hebrew translation of the book Exodus in the bible is actually "Names".  He said the significance of this is that under God, we all have names - we are not simply worthless numbers, men without names or meaning, like the slaves who worked to the bone under the rule of Pharaoh in that holy book of the Bible. I want to be a writer and so ultimately, starting a blog and sticking at it seems the most logical thing to do.

The other reason I am pursuing this blog is because my passion for music has been dying over the years.  I am a talented guitarist, basic pianist and super-amateur saxophonist (I can just about play the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army riff), as well as a audio producer, trained in Reason and Cubase to a high standard.  Most people I know believe music is my best talent and perhaps it is, but music isn't my passion anymore.  Long gone are the days when music would be playing in my house from the moment I woke to the moment I slept.  Instead, silence fills the air. Tranquil it may be, and I don't desire to become the music junkie I once was with Seinnheisers glued to the sides of my head, but there is a sadness in a part of me dying, a part that largely represents my teenage years.

As I have sat and written this first entry, the music of Frank Zappa's brilliant album Sleep Dirt has been playing lightly on my speakers. It is an album I have probably listrened to 100 times, having been first introduced the work of Frank Zappa by a friend in university (I dropped out..). I have listened to Sleep Dirt at a loud volume, and I have listened to it gently, and either way works beautifully. It is organic, human.  Technically masterful, while still retaining a natural essence.

I sit here, the time approaching three hours after midnight. I am slumped lazily to one side in my computer chair, my legs crossed and an electric fan is whirring, blasting hot air right against my shin.  It's freezing outside, the middle of January, the bitter chill on the air is relentless. But I feel content, happy and warm.  Of course, the electric fan is playing a large part of that, but I feel a warmth in my soul also, watching as the words flow from my fingers and onto the computer screen. A warmth only artists can understand.  A closeness with God. Because I am a name, not a number.