Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cover du Jour : State Trooper

This is actually a remake of a Springsteen cover song done a couple of years ago.
Still lots of Moog and Gforce VSM, but I also added Roland JX3P pad and strings, new vocals and better mix.

Download MP3

State Trooper by khoral

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unplugged du Jour : Place to Be

Place to Be by khoral

“Pink Moon” is often regarded as Nick Drake’s best album. There’s a lot of truth to that, although we may be biased by the fact that it is the artist’s final work. There are, of course, polished gems like “Things behind the sun”, “Place to be”, “Parasite”, with sophisticated chord progressions and complex lyrics. But it’s arguable whether tracks like “Horn”, “Free Ride” or “Know” show Drake at his best, composition-wise. “Five Leaves Left”, in that regard, is more cohesive.

On the other hand, “Pink Moon” is Drake’s truly timeless album : a guitar and a voice, captured with intimate, detailed precision. “Five Leaves Left” and especially “Bryter Layter” sound dated in comparison, with their typical late-60’s English folk arrangements.

“Know”, “Pink Moon” and such embryonic songs can’t help but capture imagination. Their brevity alone is striking, like stark musical aphorisms. “Know” only features a primitive, hypnotic and, well, somewhat uninspired guitar riff, far-cry from the elaborate arrangements of his previous output. But then Drake wails : “Know that I love you - Know I don’t care - Know that I see you - Know I’m not there”. That’s all he has to say. I’m fine with that. This really set the tone of the album, which sounds less like flowery poetry and more like a factual observation of one’s state of distress.

“Parasite” is exemplary. “Take a look you may see me on the ground - For I am the parasite of this town”. That kind of statement may look commonplace after New Wave, Grunge and so on… But this is 1972, remember… such confessional lyrics are somewhat unusual to the era, and especially unusual for Drake, who would generally use a much more circumvoluted and abstract vocabulary. But now the man is down and he tells us so in no uncertain terms. That is what you do when you’re at the bottom and you don’t give a damn about what the world will think of that display of honesty.

The words even verge on nihilism: “Hearing the trials of the people there - Who’s to care if they lose”. The whole song is a cry of alienation, reflected elsewhere on the album by his plea for a shelter : “And I was green, greener than the hill - Where flowers grew and sun shone still - Now I’m darker than the deepest sea - Just hand me down, give me a place to be”. That is the portrait of the artist as a metaphysical outsider. When you don’t fit in, there is no place to be, as in “to exist”.

The choice of words is also remarkable. The pastoral imagery of the first couple of sentences brings us back to his early, “English-countryside-poetry” work, a nod to the delicate, civilized and peaceful wanderings of “Five Leaves Left”. The nostalgia here is striking since Drake is only alluding to three years in the past. He was green at the time, but 1972 is darker than the deepest sea. There’s only guitar on most of “Pink Moon”, giving the same sense of isolation and dread than Springsteen’s tenebrous “Nebraska” album.

There’s still something of that youthful style, and interestingly so, Drake has chosen to close the album with a fairly optimistic and serene “From the morning” that could easily feature on “Five Leaves Left”. Pure esthetical choice, heartfelt feeling of completion despite the bleakness at the work’s core? Who knows…

What we do seem to know is that, having completed the album, Drake just left the tapes at the record company’s desk, wrapped in an anonymous envelope. Only after several days did the company realize that the new Nick Drake album was here. Cioran once said that an obscure writer with no readers feels at his publishing house like an aging whore with no clients at the brothel.

These songs were recorded almost 40 years ago. The man and his suffering, which meant all the universe to him, all is lost. Every now and then I read something what would have happened if he hadn’t die so young, and speculations on the cause of his apparent suicide. Well, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you live 20 years or 80 years. Life is a process of exhaustion. Or as Shestov put it, life, to sustain itself, must destroy itself. The small victories you held dear when you were a kid are null today. Whatever prize you think you’re winning by making it through 80, you’re taking it to the grave. Hence, regarding voluntary death, motive especially doesn’t matter. Suicide arises from the belief that life is a purposeless void, thus it makes no difference whether the trigger is personal catastrophe or a flat tire. Nick Drake died because he couldn’t live anymore, and I guess that’s it.

"I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all
It's a pink moon
It's a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Let's Go Hi-Def : Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now

I think Blu-Ray is more impressive on old movies than new ones. Of course, the latest productions look great, but what would you expect? What really stuns me is the way old, and sometimes very old movies can be rediscovered in this format.

So, these aren’t reviews of the films, and neither reviews of the discs. The focus of ths ongoing segment will be on the upgrade from DVD to Blu-Ray, and whether you should reach again to your wallet. For these movies, the answer is definitely YES.

Blade Runner
    This Ridley Scott masterpiece has known many versions, and this one, like the previous DVD edition, will most likely be the definitive one.
    The DVD looked great, but the Blu-Ray is an absolute must, restoration-wise. The picture is outstanding, clear but not clean, full of detail but not noise, the colors are beautiful, the blacks are black. All in all, this 1982 movie just don’t show its age, and actually looks a lot more impressive than many 2000’s sci-fi movies.

    Apocalypse Now
      Another movie with multiple versions. For once, I have to admit I do prefer the original theatrical version instead of the new Redux director’s cut, because I feel the added footage, mostly background stuff, only dilutes the story. Anyway, the DVD Redux edition was superb, and the Blu-Ray is breathtaking. The fiery orange Vietnamese skies, the spectacular helicopter attack, the darkly lit indoors scenes, everything shows a great amount of detail and a perfect colour balance.

      If you already own the DVD versions, an upgrade is essential on these two.

      Sunday, June 19, 2011

      Mellotron du Jour : Full of Holes

      All instruments Gforce M-Tron plugin (that was before I upgraded to M-Tron Pro).

      Full of Holes by khoral

      Saturday, June 18, 2011

      Roland JX3P Demo

      Still got some memory problems, but anyway, here's a quick demo of that sweet analogness of this 1983 beast.
      All Roland JX3P.
      I'll probably turn this into a song at some point.

      The Crack-Up (Demo) by khoral

      Friday, June 10, 2011

      Don't Listen Mode : Scott Walker : "The Drift"

      All right, this is a text I had written last year but didn't post because the editorial line here is to only talk about stuff that I like, instead of chiming in negatively on music or films that I don't care about in the first place.
      But I've just read it again and well, for a change, I'd thought I'd rant a little bit too.

      What do you do when you’ve ran out of ideas?
      Well, if you can’t write, you might as well write about the fact that you can’t write. If you’re Fitzgerald you might even draw a masterpiece from your personal void.

      Otherwise, as Burroughs put it, you just have to start faking it.

      Scott Walker can’t write songs anymore.
      He can’t stay silent either. Which I can understand.
      Do you really exist in the modern world without output? No you don’t.

      Walker’s story began as a crooner of Broadway pop. Then he found out he could actually pen outstanding melodies, which resulted primarily in landmark solo albums.
      Then there was writer’s block. All along the 70’s, Walker couldn’t find anything new so he spent the time covering country-western tunes. That was actually quite fun and I do listen a lot to his somewhat cheesy "Stretch" and "We Had it All" albums.
      In 1978, he found four more songs within himself, and what songs : the fast-paced, post-nuke disco of "Shutout", the jazz-noise acapella oddity "Fat Mama Kick", and most importantly, the timeless "Nite Flights", later to be covered by long time fan Bowie, and "The Electrician", breathtaking, epic, definitive.

      In 1984, the “Climate of Hunter” album was good too. Not as good, mind you. The melodies were less inspired, the whole work had a monolithic feel to it, like if Walker had had one good song idea and made variations of it.
      On the 1995 “Tilt” album, nine songs share four different melodies. Compared to the previous album, there are less chord progressions, more ambient tracks.

      It should have been evident to anybody who could hear : the man was running out of songs. We were witnessing a lake getting drier and drier.

      Now if you can’t write a chord progression, you can always pretend that it’s daring to have only one chord over the whole song.

      If you can’t write a melody either, you can pretend that your plan all along was to do atonal avant-garde songs.

      If you're running on empty, if you're artistically dead, if all creativity has deserted you, if you're dry as a bone, hollow as the sky, well, my man, that's when you just have to start faking it.

      “The Drift” is a fraud.

      It makes me very angry to read positive reviews about it. It makes me pointlessly angry. I really shouldn't care. But positive reviews about “The Drift” evoke the inane blabber that modern art critics pour over paintings of white on white, or the pseudo-intellectual phraseology that literary critics would impose on awfully written, stupidly un-plot novels.It’s not arty, it’s not avant-garde, it’s just a fraud.
      It’s not avant-garde, because it would have been avant-garde in 1960. It’s too late. You had your chance. Get over it.

      From 1978 on, Walker has tried harder and harder to hide his inability to write a melody by pretending he was avant-garde, like an untalented, braindead painter who splashes feces on a white canvas and calls it modern art.
      There’s no music on “The Drift”, but a clichéd collage of noise, that I would have found lazy and embarrassing in the early 90's, but today, well, it just makes me sad seeing how low some of most esteemed artists wallow in their last years.