Friday, February 15, 2008

X-Ray Connection - Get Ready
Get Ready.mp3

This legendary track is not quite like any other that I've ever heard. I don't even really know anything at all about the band, except that their producers were the high-quality team of Adams & Fleisner, also known for their work with the Danish disco band Digital Emotion. But this, this...this THING, is beyond words. It is so fucking cool. It's from 1983, and I don't even know where the band is from. Something tells me that they are from one of the "D" countries in Northern Europe (Deutsch, Dansk or Dutch), but I'm not quite sure. All I know is that, judging by the cover, these guys are fucking top-notch EuroTrash.

This song is instantly dramatic with the sudden dropping sound and the weird spacey bloops going all over. Once the siren sound kicks in, and we have that weird droning which is also rather siren-like, we are on the edge of our seats. Then the beat comes in. This thing is fucking epic. There's this certain innocence in the twinkly melody that starts up, but this track clearly knows the score, as evidenced by everything beneath it. Then, the new melody that replaces it at 1:10 comes in. Man, this thing is phenomenal. I can't tell you how excited that damn thing gets me. This beast is primed for making partying and dancing feel like it's the most dramatic and important thing in the world, though.

The twinkly one comes back, and then these descending hits come in, telling us that the good stuff is just around the corner. We hear some claps, and then the awesome synth line comes back AGAIN, but this time with a Moroder-esque whipping beat on top of it. This thing knows how fucking great it is; it knows that it has us by the balls now. But the thing backs it up. It reminds me a lot of the 85 Bears in that respect; they knew they were the best but - unlike the 07 Patriots - they back it up (ZING!). It has a sense of humor about it too, just like the Bears did with the Super Bowl Shuffle. Oh man, the way this thing just comes right back at you; it has the guts and self-confidence to return to that earlier synth line and just change it around slightly; it knows it will have a huge impact, and the presence of the twinkly interlude only serves to heighten it. Just like the human eye, we listen in contrasts.

When that disco diva voice comes in and says, "GET READYYYYYYYY", our minds are blown once again. And that amazing hook is still banging away in the background. I admittedly have no clue what the dude says right afterwards the first time (something about "see the light?"), but the coupling of "GET READYYYYYY" and then "There's a party on tonight!" is INCREDIBLE. There's something about the cadence of the way he says it that just blows my mind. This thing takes partying SERIOUSLY. Basically, the message of this song is "Get ready to get down, because that's what we're gonna do." The only problem is that very little can follow this up appropriately. I think this song is the perfect opener for the headliner of a DJ set who wants to make a dramatic entrance. It is badass enough to be later on, but somehow this is just too perfect to pass up.

"Now move it and shake it and do it up and down! I love it I like it we'll hit that funky town!" This part is cheesier, but man does it work with this. This whole song is cheesy; it combines all these amazing elements of American disco cheese and Euro Trash electro; but to incredible effect that you still take seriously. I mean, isn't this thing epic? The breakdown occurs and things - as they are wont to do during breakdowns - slow down significantly. But I promise you that it will reward you for continuing to listen, for not mixing into the next track. At 4:56, we know it's coming back, lurking around the corner. If you weren't ready to have fun already, now it's going to beat it into you. We get the "Get Ready!" announcement again, followed by the same thing as before. With the ascending and descending twinkly melody on top of the amazing one and the rest of it, this thing just gets that much more intense. It's a subtle move, but it's marvelous. All the elements are synthesized in the end (by synthesizers...whoa.) to create this epic beast. It's kind of a reminder to make use of what you have, and that sometimes taking even the weaker part of something, whose presence is intended to highlight that of the stronger, and re-using it, might give it additional value. And isn't that true with having fun? With shitty beer like Natty Ice, you can play beer pong; the least attractive of your friends can play wingman and sit on the grenade. Just kidding with that last one, but you get what I mean.

But I am fascinated by songs that I perceive as being about taking fun seriously. Isn't it weird how that can happen in real life? Taking having fun seriously. It doesn't really make sense, does it? It's weird when it happens, but it seems to happen all the time. I think part of it can be the sexual/romantic element, that desire. Like I talked about in the Camaro's Gang entry, going out to a club can be serious business if you see someone you dig, or if you want to see someone you dig. I think for some people, too, partying is all they feel they have to look forward to. And there is a certain dangerous, sinister and destructive side to hedonism, isn't there? I mean, isn't that the foundation of house music, American disco and entire bands like Happy Mondays? Drinking, drugs and sex can be dangerous or even deadly. And what about the emotional toll? I mean, in a weird way, this song sort of - sort of - makes me feel like I'm going into battle or something. Something epic and really, really important...Disco Battle. I mean, maybe fun should be taken seriously in this day and age. Or is it just that people get so addicted to partying and place so much of their emotional and physical energy into it that it necessarily becomes a serious affair? I mean, even when people are just having fun with having fun, they can get really into it. The planning, the excitement over the plans and prospects; it's all an intense affair that can actually be best when someone took it seriously and made the proper plans and arrangements beforehand - like for a party. And sometimes isn't going out and partying how some people assert themselves in the world? I mean, seriously. Don't you know some people who really honestly view partying as their means of fulfilling their potential? Of showing people who they are and making their presence known in the world? Friday night can be like this little window in which you can go out and feel like a superstar, even if you just organize pens in an Office Depot. I mean, I think we all kind of have little moments like that, where we feel like our lives are more cinematic when we're out with friends, winning beer pong tournaments and feeling like Michael Jordan.

I don't know - most importantly, this song kicks ass.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Covenant - Feedback

Now here is a golden oldie from my past. Back when I was in high school, I was a huge, huge fan of a lot of electro-industrial stuff like Front 242, Skinny Puppy (see below), Front Line Assembly and Covenant. Now, I often don't take stuff labeled as such seriously, but I think that bands like Skinny Puppy and Front 242 are totally unique acts that really do something totally unique within the whole scope of pop music, regardless of their genre. In fact, in some ways, I think that Front 242 is one of the most innovative electronic bands of all-time, period, and that Skinny Puppy totally transcends genre altogether, but that's beside the point. Covenant is another beastly band that is basically a Swedish electro band. This cut, taken from their second album, 1996's Sequencer, is a barn burner. Don't think of it as electro-industrial; just think of it as a song. It'll sound better.

This beast is grating and repetitive, but very beautiful. It immediately builds atmosphere, particularly once the obviously synthetic and creepy choral patch comes into play. A slightly less creepy but still strange voice robotically growls, "I consume the wind that makes you cold, And drink the blood of the bleeding souls, To check your fear and hide the noise of the howling wolves that steals your voice." What the hell is he talking about? It certainly doesn't sound very nice, or does it? He's actually saying that he gets rid of the wind that makes you cold, drinks blood to check your fear and hide the noise that steals your voice. Is this guy some kind of weird guardian? He's certainly creeping me out. Maybe he's kind of like Arnold in T2 or something, and doesn't know how to talk to people.

Then this nervous little synth line come in, and then a powerful beat. Every element in this song has syncopated perfectly and we are now driving at full speed, but we still seem to be going slow, dragged down by the slow, pulsating, quivering synths beneath us. He continues: "I confuse your mind to feed your dreams, To read your thoughts and keep them safe, From harmful truth and the hopeful lies of the tempting demon that hurts your eyes." Here we have more stuff that he's keeping you from, but it seems to get even more confusing here. He seems to be some sort of omniscient entity that controls your mind to protect you, but it seems like maybe a few things are being sacrificed in the process.

Then, the incredible chorus hits us. It stops and builds until we hear him say, "I will protect you from your visions, To save you from illusions," as the chords shift and progress in this most gorgeous way that draws so much attention to the way the song has been structured up until this point. "I will protect you from ideals, To save you from defeats." Are these lines not incredible? This dude, whatever the hell he is, is basically trying to protect you from that which makes you human. He repeats himself, and we get such a strong, undeniable sense of the invincibility, the omnipotence of this force - at least within the song itself. The music mesmerizes us draws us into this strange world where we are slowly drained of our humanity with every beat and every squiggle, with every bit of feedback layered over the beat. With visions can come illusions, and even if they are sometimes true, this guy protects us from them. I get this really strong sense whenever I listen to this that things are being gradually destroyed - but with a quickness that sneaks up on and surprises you. But perhaps the most shocking line is the chorus' second, because ideals are just so clearly considered to be such an integral part of being human. It's like, at a garage sale where you're desperate for cash, you could maybe - maybe - sell your visions, but if some schmuck asks for your ideals, you'd say no way, I'm no chump, chump.

But isn't it true, that if we didn't have ideals, we could never be defeated? The thing that I find with this song is that that idea is offensive, but it's frighteningly seductive. It's like you want to give in and just let the guy erase your humanity and get rid of your ideals. But maybe that's just because I like that wacky Taoist crap. I mean, I don't actually want someone to get rid of my ideals - that'd be terrible - but the song has a musical quality to it that is really, really hypnotic and absorbs you in it in such a thorough way.

Then the music slows again, and builds. The lyrics take a turn, and the guy becomes more aggressive. "I consume the wind that makes you bold, And suck the blood of the living souls, To make you numb and hide the noise of the howling wolves that is your voice." Here we see the wind is the source of boldness and courage, along with the cold. That extreme can be the source of courage, a well of strength. This, to me, seems very Nordic, and I love it since I love the cold and the feeling of invigoration it gives me. Then we see that this guy is just sucking the blood of the living in order to make you numb; this is pretty obvious, of course, that numbness would follow if he did all these things. But I really love the twist on hiding the noise of the wolves, which he says is, in fact, your voice. Before, it was that which erased your voice, but now, it is your voice. Isn't this so wise, though? I mean, it's obviously drawing on some quasi-Romantic imagery of nature and relating it to interior processes and states (like emotions, etc.), but isn't it so true how some things which can make you feel silenced can then become that which you use to break that silence? For instance, desire - a fitting analogue for howling wolves. Sometimes, I think everyone can be silent when they feel desire, because they don't want to express it. It is that which silences you. But then, you can decide to express that desire, and those howling wolves become your very voice. I think it's really powerful, beautiful and astute. And if this dude were to indeed silence our humanity, our visions, our ideals, then desire would naturally be supressed, as well.

The music goes marching on, and the situation seems more and more dire. He finally goes on, "I seduce your mind to fear your dreams, And read your thoughts to keep you blind, From harmful truth and the open skies, Of the outside world before your eyes." Here he continues being really open about the destruction he intends, talking about instilling fear of our dreams and keeping us from harm - even when it is borne of truth - and of the openness that awaits us before our eyes (and within our minds and hearts). Again, I really like the equation of nature and ourselves.

Then, it builds. Again. To a fucking beast of a climax. But how does this really change from before, musically? I can't really tell if it does, but I don't think it does. The song has just built the tension so damn well that it sounds twice as loud and twice as powerful. The urgency of what he's saying is escalated, and we are drawn deeper downwards, helpless against the force of this song and its unstoppable voice. Then, when it stops again and begins sparkling with that extra synth line, it just goes nuts. But it's all still so restrained. It's like there's this bizarre ecstasy filling the listener; perhaps the bliss of the ignorance the voice seems to promise. But it's totally bittersweet, of course - how could it not be? There is this profound resignation, this surrendering of our humanity, that is inherently sad but made to feel somewhat sweet. That is part of the magic of this song; its ambiguity and the emotional and intellectual confusion it engenders in the listener.

But who - or what - is this guy? I love the song's title: Feedback. Maybe it's supposed to pertain to television, media and technology? It could be anything that makes us feel noise. Or maybe it's literally supposed to mean "feedback", as in getting a reaction from someone else. Or maybe it's self-feedback, a self-reaction. Maybe the title is a reference to how we feel when we listen to it; what kind of feedback do we give to the song? How do we react? It's clear that this force is powerful, and it's here to stay. It's also strangely seductive. But what the hell is it? I love not knowing.