Friday, July 13, 2007

Some of the Best “Difficult Music”


I’ve been thinking and meaning to write/crystallise my thoughts on albums which may be difficult to listen to or get into at first, but which can be very rewarding after a few listens and much open-mindedness. Certain albums (sometimes comprising a whole bands’ work) may come across as repugnant initially, for various reasons, yet may reward the listener on repeated listens and often become highly revered cult records amongst ‘true’ fans, sometimes for a good reason, but also sometimes just because the music is so extreme and where controversy outweighs the ‘quality of the art’ (in the ear of the beholder).

I’m interested in seeking out the albums that fall within this pretty broad definition which have worked well for me. I was initially thinking of stuff like the lo-fi tacky drum machines of Ween's early work, the amazing neo-classical darkwave of Shinjuku Thief, the goth/punk of Bauhaus, the brutal, ugly punk of The Birthday Party, some of John Zorn’s extremely diverse and eclectic albums involving almost all conceivable styles of music, but particularly those of collage, jazz improv, neo-classicalism and crafted noise, Mr. Bungle’s avant garde alternative art rock or whatever it is Disco Volante, the minimalism of Philip Glass, the extreme ambience and weirdness of Naked City’s Absinthe, or the noise and glitch sounds of Autechre and Aphex Twin, the paranoid lo fi black metal of Faxed Head (well, they’re certainly not for all people), the cheesy black metal of Sigh and Cradle of Filth (also not for everone), the beauty and strangeness of Eyvind Kang’s almost medieval, neo-classical and middle eastern freakout Theater of Mineral NADEs, improvisations like Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert, etc. on hearing these albums some people may question their worth as a medium of enjoyment or art or whatever, and that’s fair enough, because such unusual music can be jarring or boring at first. But over the past few months I keep hearing albums and thinking that I need to pass them on to friends. I think this is a good forum to rant about them and crystallise my ideas.

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