Song, by Toad

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Ask And You Shall Receive

Me and my big mouth.

While I was down in Brighton recently I had a big old chat with Frances, who records as Animal Magic Tricks¬†and is one of the more elusive artists on the Song, by Toad roster. She’s down in Brighton at the moment studying sonic art, and as a result her Facebook feed has been full of posts of bizarre experimental music, noise pieces and Christ knows what else. As a commercially minded, take-no-prisoners record exec peddling easily digestible treats to the thronging masses this terrifies me that she might never produce another glittering gem of simple pop magic ever again, of course, but I bit my tongue and attempted to engage her in conversation nevertheless. Aren’t I brave.

Silliness aside, I am actually both fascinated and intimidated by experimental music. In much the same way as hip-hop, I have heard great moments here and there, but I don’t know enough about the genre to identify quite what they are, how to explore more of them, or in general how to navigate the vast morass of stuff I won’t like and weasel out the bits I love.

I am much further along my exploratory route with experimental and noise music of course, because a lot of the bands we work with here at Song, by Toad Records are fans of the stuff, and their music has been more influenced by noise and experimental, so I am starting to gain a small foothold and acclimatise my ears. I’ve been enjoying my psychedelia a lot this year as well, and have always liked 60s psychedelic folk, and a lot of that firmly straddles the experimental camp if not the noise music one quite as much.

Despite my ignorance, it’s something I’m really keen to explore. When Frances and I were chatting, one example I cited was Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd. What I love about that, and indeed about a lot of noise music actually, is it’s incredibly coy way with melody. The rhythm may give this way too much structure to call it noise, but I absolutely love the way they tease you with a massive rock riff at the very beginning of the song, before dissembling into noodling for a full eight fucking minutes before the song finally seems to fall to pieces entirely about seven minutes in, and then springs back into glorious life again with that massive riff once again. Then, just as you are punching the air and playing awful air guitar again, it stops. And that’s it. One minute of awesomeness, eight minutes of every decreasing circles of noodle, and then just as you leap to celebrate the return of the riff… nah, fuck you, we’re bored now. Next song.

At this stage in my exploration of this kind of music it’s that relationship with melody which I love. In noise it emerges from the dissonance and whiteness, and in this stuff it hides behind buggering about, daring you to guess when it’s coming back. I remember the first time I started to get into this kind of thing was Spiders (Kidsmoke) by Wilco back in 2003. It’s much more of a pop song, but when the big, barely-structured instrumental bit comes in you just know the melody will make a return at some point, and that heightens the enjoyment both of the stumbling inbetween and the triumphant return when it does happen.

Now, of course, I’m just dipping my toe in these waters at the moment, and as you can see, only just starting to understand where I will find the bits I might love in a sea of interminable music wanking. Frances, on the other hand, had more of these tendencies to begin with and has been firmly embedded in experimental noise for the last few years, so I imagine my talking to her about it was a little akin to his gran praising Gareth Bale for ‘kicking the ball very well indeed’, but she sent me a couple of links this week, and I suppose my reaction gives a decent idea of where I’m at with this stuff.

First was the Colin Stetson link (embedded at the top of the page), which even on first listen I was able to get. Not to love and start dancing around the room to, you understand – baby steps, baby steps – but to be genuinely fascinated by and drawn to play it again and again. Second was Chris Corsano, below, and frankly I am going to have to do a bit more diligent homework before I get to that level. Frances seemed to know that though. It’s a “slow burner” she said, “but really worth it – honest!” I feel a bit like when you go to abroad on holiday and speak enough of the language to give it a try, only to get halfway through your first sentence, turn bright red, and wish you’d never opened your mouth. Baby steps!

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