Heat Soundtrack

One of the first movie soundtracks I ever loved, that wasn’t strictly pop music, was the soundtrack to Michael Mann’s Heat.  Moby, U2, and Brian Eno do make appearances, but vocals are kept to a minimum.  The music is mostly hauntingly beautiful, with occasional forays into tense discord.  Rarely do film and music link up so well together.  Mann’s film is full of shades of blue, modern and sleek.  The music has the same sleekness, full of ambient soundscapes that recall a city in the wee hours of the morning.  The music rarely tells you how to feel.  It is instead full of wonder, opening the door to a higher emotional state.  The same piece may be lonely, beautiful, or tense, depending on the mood that you listen to it in.  Above is a Michael Brooks instrumental called Ultramarine.   It is a good piece to listen to because it features several elements that appear elsewhere on the soundtrack.  It has percussive textures like Brian Eno’s Force Marker, a beautiful theme like Moby’s God Moving Over the Face of the Waters, and an overall ambience to it like much of the soundtrack.

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The World of Roxy Music

I was out on the road the last two days.  I had forgotten my iPod before leaving the house and had to borrow my brother’s at the last minute.  Combing through his records, I found myself living in the world of Roxy Music the entire time I was out.  I’ve long been a fan, but haven’t lived in their world for so many hours for quite some time.  The above video is from one of Roxy Music’s early masterpieces For Your Pleasure.  They were a truly unique bunch of mutants in their prime.  Really all of their eight studio albums are worth having, even if the quality dips a bit on Manifesto and Flesh + Blood.  The best bands all create their own cinematic world through sound, and Roxy Music created a world like no other.

The Badass Drumming of Tony Allen

Brian Eno said that Tony Allen was, “perhaps the greatest drummer that ever lived.”  As a rhythm section guy (bass) that has been lucky enough to have learned a lot about drumming from two of Austin’s best drummers (Keith Langford and Alex Moralez), I have been marveling at the drum work of Tony Allen lately.  He is most famous for his work with Fela Kuti where he helped create Afrobeat.  I learned about him, like many my age in the West, first through his work with Damon Albarn.  He has been a part of a ridiculous amount of great records.  Above I picked a live version of the single from his newest solo album Film of Life.  This is a song he wrote with Albarn.  You really need to check out more than his work with Albarn, because again there is so much fantastic stuff to discover, especially if you appreciate great musicianship.  Although I love Albarn and I think his work with him is excellent, it is really only a sliver of what makes him so great.  I simply picked this because it was new and I know that there are some people who would find a pop song the easiest place to start.

Strangers When We Meet

All our friends
Now seem so thin and frail
Slinky secrets
Hotter than the sun

No preachy friars
No trendy rechauffe
I’m with you
So I can’t go wrong

All my violence
Raining tears upon the sheets
I’m bewildered
For we’re strangers when we meet

Blank screen TV
Preening ourselves in the snow
Forget my name
But I’m over you

Blended sunrise
And it’s a dying world
Humming Rhinegold
We scavenge up our clothes

All my violence
Raging tears upon the sheets
I’m resentful
For we’re strangers when we meet

Cold tired fingers
Tapping out your memories
Halfway sadness
Dazzled by the new

Your embrace
It was all that I feared
That whirling room
We trade by vendue

Steely resolve
Is falling from me
My poor soul
All bruised passivity

All your regrets
Ride roughshod over me
I’m so glad
That we’re strangers when we meet

I’m so thankful
That we’re strangers when we meet
I’m in clover
For we’re strangers when we meet
Heel head over
But we’re strangers when we meet

Strangers When We Meet by David Bowie.  This is one of my favorite David Bowie songs and possibly one of my favorite songs of all time.  It is from his criminally underrated album Outside. This is an album that is now almost 20 years old, but as a whole still sounds like the future. The music and the melody of this song is simply stunning.  I also love the interpretive poetry of the lyrics.  “All my violence, raining tears upon the sheets”, is such a great vivid song lyric.

Sorry to those subscribers that got two posts of this.  I was having a technical issue.  

Roads Still Yet to be Traveled

I’ve really become interested in electronic music lately.  Some bands that I’ve been listening to lately have been Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, OMD, and Book of Love.  I also love the Knife, though their music fits less moods than the others, as they are more abrasive and confrontational.  I also love the music on Johnny Jewel’s label, especially the band The Chromatics.  I’ve always loved synth pop.  I grew up on bands like New Order.

I’m interested in the idea of people getting emotion out of technology.  Also some of the best pop songs are in this genre.  Bernard Sumner from New Order can write endless melodies that never leave your head.

Although I grew up with bands like New Order, Electronic, and Depeche Mode, some of my current interest has been driven by the films of Nicolas Winding Refn.  He uses this music to great effect in films like Drive, Bronson, and Only God Forgives.  He understands that although this music is very synthetic on one hand, it is also capable of great emotion.

If country and folk music, which I also love, evoke pastoral settings, electronic music reminds me of the city at nighttime.  That’s not to say that electronic music can’t also be pastoral.  Brian Eno’s 70’s album Another Green World is an album that brings nature to mind more often than not.  Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album also has moments like this.  Although I love songs that have a message and am a fan of great lyrics, sometimes music is wonderful when it just creates space for dreams.

Haruki Murakami’s book After Dark creates a surreal dream like version of the city at night.  When I read things like this I often picture certain pieces by Kraftwerk and the Chromatics as being the perfect soundtrack to these worlds.

I grew up as a fan of the pop song.  More recently I’ve begun to be as interested in music that is non verbal.  Music that is non verbal has to create emotion and thought through pure sound.  This can be music that is instrumental or music that has the vocals obscured through production techniques.  Non verbal to me can even be bands that sing in foreign languages, where I can’t understand what they are saying, and the voice becomes just another emotional texture.  Often in electronic music, especially as you see with bands like Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, only a few simple phrases will be repeated throughout a song.  Even though you understand what they are saying it is open to interpretation when combined with the music.  The words become almost just another sound that feeds into the music and vice versa.

Although I write in the pop song format, and it’s still my favorite format, there is something to be said about music that is non verbal.  The human imagination is a powerful thing.  In the place of words we will often find that our dreams take over and place meaning into things that may or may not be intended by the artist.

I’ve mentioned before how David Lynch liked using grainy digital video for the movie Inland Empire, because he wanted the human imagination to fill in the space that the imperfect images left.  I think a lot of electronic music, the kind that is non verbal or almost non verbal, does this same thing.  It allows for interpretation and dreaming on the part of the listener.

Well there are many forms of instrumental music, many of which I love, the sounds created by electronic instruments create a different headspace.  Again it is often, but not always, more urban and futuristic.  Some bands like OMD, who write pop songs and instrumental pieces, create a retro futurism.  It’s like the sonic version of a film noir that takes place in the past and the future at the same time.  One of my favorite albums right now is their album Dazzle Ships.  It is an album full of mystery, ideas, and dreams.

Too often I think people let cultural or tribal things get in the way of exploring new worlds.  People are more open now to new musical experiences than ever before.  Sometimes though, there still exists a certain tribal instinct that gets in the way of people enjoying different forms, based solely on what they might find “cool” or acceptable in their group.   The human imagination can go anywhere and should be given as much room to roam as possible.  Don’t listen to anything but your own gut.  There are many roads still yet to be traveled.