‘What’s the hell is that racket?”
Mrs. Jaybee thought the computer was malfunctioning, but it was just me listening to a new CD. (This happens a lot.)
It was mid-January when a Christmas present meant for me finally came in the mail. And again, it fit this weird, not-interested-in-music mood I was in. (Some mood. My third album and it wasn't even February.)
But those three records were near accidents. Neu! was a perfunctory buy. As You Like It a shot in the relative dark. And now an almost forgotten amazon Wish List item popped up out of nowhere.
David Toop is a, well, I’m not sure what the hell he is, exactly. But he did compile this collection of weird sounds only some of us would call music. He also wrote a book about it, but that’s for another time. Let's call him a musical anthropologist.
He's put together a wide array of recordings that differ in time, place, tone and instrumentation. Why Toop thinks they should sound good together will be something I'll discover once I read his book, but for now I'm left with only the actual experience of hearing it.
And it's quite an experience.
Toop jumps continents/decades/genres with each track. Hence we start with Jamaican dub, but then go to jazz fusion, (which, oddly, doesn’t suck) electronica, ambient, third world, fourth world, classical, shoegaze, and we’re only halfway through the first disc.
The segue from Les Baxter to My Bloody Valentine is particularly striking. Usually you progress from chaos to beauty, this goes in the opposite direction, and still works.
The one from Paul Schutze to the Velvet Underground isn’t as successful ("I Heard Her Call My Name" doesn't fit easily anywhere except right where it is - at the beginning of side two of White Light/White Heat - right before “Sister Ray”) but I give him credit for trying.
But overall, it’s miraculous how these disparate pieces hang together so well. I think the secret is that Toop doesn't try to make them hang together too seamlessly. He wants you to notice the differences, but at the same time realize how short a leap it really was.
There’s chanting, a Buddist ceremony and various “found sounds”. My favorites are the Howler monkeys. Not the Monkees (this time), but actual monkeys. At one point, when a ship’s horn blows. Mrs. Jaybee joked “so when’s the train coming?” And sure enough, as if on cue, along comes the train.
Otherworldly, and yet so of this world - just some parts of it I’ve never been to. This is NOT Pure Moods. Not easy listening, either. More like Music to Listen to Alone. And some of it isn't music at all. But if you’re in the right mood it is nature itself.
You can listen intently, or ignore it and it’ll still sound like life is going on around you.
One listener gave it a so-so review on amazon, and I can’t even argue with it. The review - like the record - makes sense on paper. But unlike the review, the record also makes sense to my ears. The music. The sounds. Often both.
And like the last time I was in such a funk, and could only listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2, I stuck to this record for the better part of three months.
When to listen to it: At night. Preferably a dark night of the soul.
When NOT to listen to it: When everything's going great.