Wednesday, May 20, 2020

What I Learned From Having Died

I’ve watched streams of entire operas for 61 consecutive days.  I finished a hideous three-hour-and-43-minute 1986 production of Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” this morning.  The strenuous process altered my ears.  Out for Stars, a challenging album by an Amsterdam based octet overseen by the Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler, would have almost certainly have struck me as overly precious and exceedingly cacophonous just two months ago.  The scratchy recording sets the poems of Robert Frost to avant-garde chamber music.  While vocalists Björk Níelsdóttir and Laura Polence mimic operatic singing on “The Silken Tent,” their approach is more often in line with experimental folk ensembles.  Based on Robert Frost’s “A Passing Glimpse,” “Danas, Jučer, Sutra” reduces my opera-traumatized psyche to a puddle.  But don’t mind me- I’m so intoxicated by the European-steeped Kool Aid that even a woefully inept and horribly out of tune saxophone solo on “Away!” pleases me.

Hearing Jah Wobble’s opening bass line on “Public Image” in 1978 was among the most transformative musical moments of my life.  I had a friend who sprung for Public Image Ltd.’s Metal Box a year later.  Corrosive songs like “Poptones” also modified the way I experience sound.  Almost every song by Sleaford Mods catapults me back to that era.  All That Glue, a 72-minute compilation of the group’s most popular songs and odds-and-sods, is a thrilling career summation and logical extension of PiL’s legacy.  Here’s the excellent video for “Second”.

I lament the conservatism of the Folly Jazz Series’ forthcoming season at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of smoke near the entrance of Churchill Downs by There Stands the Glass.)

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