Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stars of the Lid and Birth

Our son was born on a nice, breezy summer evening when the setting sun cast an orange glow and the full moon lurked just behind the hills. I had assembled a bunch of music to potentially have Julia listen to and help her focus or ease stress during labor. Taiga Remains, Eluvium, Gydja, the Necks. None of this really did the trick. But, as we expected, Stars of the Lid did. Wow, is that the best music for laboring women or what?

I won't get into the details, but And Their Refinement Of The Decline is the perfect patina of subtle sound for a woman to heave and grunt her way through the most life-changing physical experience. I have to thank these two dudes from Texas who wrote this music. It would probably be pretty interesting to hear that your music served as the soundtrack to a new human being brought into the world. In fact, we haven't stopped listening to SOTL since Everest was born. It's on all the time! We never get bored of it. It suits our mood and our volume level. Julia finds that one of the songs is the perfect expression of the inexplicably calm sadness a new mother feels when her peaking hormones start to drop off the day after she gives birth.

These dreamy, slow-motion drones composed of strings, horns, piano, guitar and synthetic water really are perfectly matched for such a sensitive event. Julia and I have kept the drones going. Besides listening to SOTL and other ambient stuff, we now sing drones to our baby. Whenever he seems to be crying inexpicably or is just needing comfort, we often opt to sing a sustained note directly into his skull or ear. It often quiets him within seconds. Sometimes this sonic interference keeps Everest happy for a long time. Until he shits his pants, after which even the sweetest of Debussy's fawning flutes couldn't keep the raging discomfort at bay.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Job!! The Silent Ballet

A couple days ago I was given the "Okay" as a writer for The Silent Ballet, a primarily-instrumental music website. It began as a post-rock-specific site in the summer of 2006 and now deals with many kinds of instrumental fair. It's gettin' diverse and ever more exciting to see what music they're getting into. Lots of material I enjoy is reviewed regularly, and of all the websites that I could write music reviews for, this is the one. Everyone who does writing for the site is pretty casual, but at the moment it feels very prestigious, especially because I get "paid" in access to insurmountable amounts of new music. The only perk I need.

Good timing, too, as this baby is going to prevent me from purchasing any new music for a while. Silent Ballet has filled that niche! I am so lucky.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Music from Mali: Tinariwen and Yoro Sidibe

Check out these two very disparate groups from Mali, one from the desert, the other from the jungle, both from completely different worlds that we barely realize exist...

Tinariwen are Touareg, a nomadic people from the desert region shared by Libya, Mali and Niger. They speak Tamasheq, one of (if not the) the oldest languages in the world (showcased in red on the album cover, here) and all their songs are in this tongue. I'd heard of them, and I was curious, and the other day in Zulu Records, Julia approached me with "Aman Iman" in her hands, excitment brimming. So we had to get it.

I didn't realize how popular they were. These dudes are from the middle of nowhere, as it were, and they've played gigs with Robert Plant, Santana (who hasn't Santana played with? That whore.), and played for Live8, that world-wide concert intent on raising money for Africa. Duh, of course they would play that show. They've been a band since 1979! Since I was a wee baby. The music is so great, rooted in blues and rock but with that desert drift and warmth that makes them impossible not to love! There's an amazing back story to the band and their founder, the man with the hair, and this video here is very educational about the music and its relation to Mali, blues and where the stories come from:

The other group from Mali I acquired is led by a man named Yoro Sidibe. There are many singers like him who lead chants for the donsos, the traditional hunters of Mali who live on the edge of society, shrouded in mystery near the jungles. I don't even think the ceremonies where these songs are performed are allowed to be video taped, but I guess audio recordings are fine by them. The songs about hunters are only to be heard by the donsos, who are encouraged by these boisterous and cyclical tribal hypno-songs (and their egos are also boosted as men like Yoro Sidibe sing about current hunters, as well as historical figures). The music is mesmerizing, dark and bright all at once highlighted by the intense vocals from our main man. Absolutely essential to know about music like this, and totally enjoyable to listen to. I couldn't find a video of Yoro Sidibe, but I did find a montage of some Mali hunter music that is very similar: