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Relatively Recent Release Roundup: March 17th 2023
Yesterday I saw some automated post thing that was like "it's such-and-such Thursday, for when we do our Thursday thing" and I thought, "wow. They must be so embarassed by this mistake, because it's only Wednesday. I should tell them", but before I did, I checked the date. It was actually Thursday! So yeah, the week got away from me, and I wasn't able to write about everything I wanted to. But I finished what I wanted to say about these two excellent albums:
March 1st, 2023
Max Syedtollan - Disposables (33-33)
March 3rd, 2023
Morgan Garrett - Extreme Fantasy (Orange Milk)
I've been thinking about the concept of transgression lately, like what is its place in the world right now. I recently watched this documentary "FTA", about an anti-Vietnam War show performed for GI's as a sort of counterbalance to Bob Hope's USO tours. They got so much mileage just out of saying swear words! It was striking to see someone so easily take a deliberately transgressive position for themselves. The primary way that transgression is encountered now is more indirect, there'll be an in-norms presenter showcasing the violations of someone who exists in the out group. If you want to make money with content, just find a way to say "isn't it so fucked up what these other people are doing?!", because everyone has some kind of path to saying yes.
I'm still grappling with what that all means for the world, but I'm a bit more confident about the state of music. I think the term "experimental" has been utilized in a way that inhibits the transgressive potential of sound by giving people an easy way out to make something sound correct, to quickly establish with minimal consideration that something exists within established boundaries. It's terrible! I still love engaging with music that easily sits within those boundaries, but I want to see a challenge to the order. And through their approaches to songwriting, Max Syedtollan and Morgan Garrett have each found a way to bring one.
Syedtollan's album begins with a piece that is comfortably experimental, a very good linear tension-builder, with some different layers of varying stabilities all finding their own way to keep getting bigger, until they don't. But then the game becomes clear on "I Don't Want Lorenzo Hearing Me Singing Today", a song that launches right from the start with lyrics and synth work that both reflect the strong desire to hurry up and finish singing, before Lorenzo gets back. The tempo is erratic and the words are delivered as though Syedtollan decided at the last possible second that they would be sung and not spoken. It is a glorious mess of a song, the type where it's hard for me to imagine a social music situation where these musical actions wouldn't feel wrong, but they're all absolutely necessary to convey this very specific nervous feeling. The album continues on this line with other types of wrongpop, sometimes feeling a bit in line with the deeply pressurized pop of Neil Luck's Downturn Fantasies, which is exactly what I want to see in the world. So yeah, I think very highly of this one! Not to be missed.
Garrett's album stands some chance of blending in with extreme music genres like noise or metal, if you're selective with your excerpts. But it mostly lands at something a bit more difficult to pin down. There's vocal melodies and accompanying guitar work, but they've been corrupted. With the Syedtollan album, it's like casually going a toe over the line into musicality. But with what Garrett's doing, there's a sense of a fully deliberate musicality that could easily be rendered as sheet music, and it's being used as a guide for what to avoid. The singing either comes in at the wrong place or glides down into it, and the guitar strings sound like they've been given enough slack to touch the floor, and the playing just carries on like nothing is amiss. Surrounding all of this is so many compelling noises and oscillators, fleshing out the sound. The full package makes for an experience like watching someone walk off the map, exiting the bounds. It would be so different if they simply existed outside of the bounds all along. Actually being able to witness the exit takes it to a whole other level. Another remarkable experience, highly recommended!
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