Sounds like it plays

For the first time in… well, since I was in college, which I suppose the kind of time one generally measures in terms of glaciation and continental drift, isn’t it? Huh. That’s depressing.

Anyway, for the first time since that faraway era, I’ve been seeking out new music in an active way of late. Sometime around my junior year of college I bought some albums by The Orb and Eat Static, and I guess I decided that, well, my music collection is up at a few hundred CDs now, and that’s more music than I can listen to in half a year, so I’m done now. Since then, I’ve picked up plenty of CDs and downloaded more than my share of music files — legitimately, whenever possible! — but it’s all been drawn from the same pool of specific progressive rock bands, game audio, and pleasantly sterile ’80s post-punk.

For some reason, though, I find myself compelled to hunt down new work lately. And by “new” I actually mean “old,” since my brain’s tuning knob seems to have settled on the so-called UK Canterbury scene of the ’70s as my unexpected new fixation. It’s strange, because I gave a few of the relevant bands a try back in college and found them distinctly lacking. But a few months back I downloaded Camel’s Rain Dances on a whim (despite previously having found Camel to be suffocatingly dull) and couldn’t stop listening to it. And now I’m slowly fleshing out my collection of Canterbury-affiliated albums, the vast majority of which are unified by the way their sounds shares a common airy warmth.

This morning I listened to National Health’s eponymous debut album for the first time ever, and it made me kind of sad that I’ve lived so many years without ever having even heard of this band (outside of some passing mention on a Genesis retrospective, once). In between bouts of shaking my fist regretfully at the sky, though, I realized that my taste in music actually shares a lot in common with my taste in games. I tend to gravitate toward things with a sense of scope, a feeling of freedom, and a tendency to explore. Of course, games are an active medium where music isn’t, so exploration in those cases is all on the musicians. But the rambling 15-minute “Tenemos Roads” flips the same switch deep in my brain that is struck by Symphony of the Night; it’s meandering yet structured, sweeping but not bombastic.

Come to that, I think my interest in ’70s-vintage music stems from the same place as my appreciation of classic games: Not just that this is what I grew up with or whatever, but because there’s a certain authenticity about both. The sound of an unprocessed drum and a Hammond organ dates from an era before the music industry was thoroughly corporatized and composition took a back seat to production and digital tinkering, just as a 16-bit game predates massive teams and middleware solutions and render farms.

In other words, I’m pretty much just a Luddite when it comes to all my entertainment. Ah well. Not that you care about any of this, of course. It was just a random revelation.

14 thoughts on “Sounds like it plays

  1. EMusic is a good source for new tunes. That’s where I found all the Annette Hanshaw songs from Sita Sings the Blues, which I am listening to at the moment. Even so – I know what you mean. I don’t get around to seeking out new artists as much as I should. Part of that is because doing so tends to involve sorting through lots of stupid band names and reading reviews that communicate nothing about whether you’d actually like the album or not. But at least the internet makes it easier to hear before you buy.

  2. Consider checking out Pain Of Salvation. If Queen and Faith No More were to have a baby, that is what it would sound like. “BE”, “Remedy Land”, and “The Perfect Element” would be my “top 3” suggestions for albums to check out, but definitely do go grabbing singles-they’re all full length concept pieces with repeated themes and melodies; all very different sounding albums as well, with “BE” being the strangest/most organic of them.

    I suppose you could listen to each album without purchase OR an illegal download-look up track listings then look up each track on youtube.

  3. I think that you might like the band Sunset Rubdown and their album “Random Spirit Lover”. I feel like their music has a terrific “sense of scope, a feeling of freedom, and a tendency to explore” that you would probably really appreciate.

  4. Oh… I wasn’t really soliciting suggestions. I have a long, long list of things to listen to and only so much time and money. I’m set for a year, at least.

  5. Just wanted to second craig’s recommendation of Sunset Rubdown. I love their newer one, Dragonslayer, more, but Random Spirit Lover is fantastic, too.

  6. I am constantly searching for new albums and music to listen to (encouraged by the ease of purchase in iTunes), but I guess I am in that fabled college era of exploration.
    I’m meant to settle down on this music? Man, most of this stuff is folk/americana rubbish that I’ll probably be embarrassed about in 3 years time.

  7. “the kind of time one generally measures in terms of glaciation and continental drift”

    Not to be completely besides the point, but glacial timescales are on the order of tens of thousands of years, while continental cycles are something more like hundreds of millions of years.

  8. The last track on Camel’s “Moonmadness” (think it’s called Lunar Sea) is that odd 70s song with the forward-looking synth and guitar lines that evoke the 80s. It’s the rare “Peter Gabriel stealing-from-the-future” trick. You probably won’t go wrong with any of their albums.

    I’d wager you’ve already checked out “Land of Grey and Pink” by Caravan. Also great!

    ProgSucks belies his name by citing Pain of Salvation. ;) As much as I love new Marillion and Porcupine Tree, nobody in the last decade is half as prog (for better or worse) as these guys. They’re the kind of group that writes a creation-myth concept album about God seeding the universe with people, and then bringing everyone back into himself once stuff heads south. They have a very histrionic METAL! side to them that might not fit your wistful prog/canterbury searching.

  9. The only “prog” stuff I ever really listen to is Rush. Yes is pretty good, too, and so is King Crimson.

    New music is goshawful, though. I can’t remember the last truly great rock band. Until something tops Zeppelin, I don’t really see the point of trying. The 70s had it all, man. :P

  10. ProgSucks does no such thing! I have often heard PoS described as “prog without the suck” and I absolutely agree. It has all the positive elements often associated with prog without the bullshit trappings. It amazes me how prog rock fans/artists have “rules” for the genre, when like punk rock is it supposed to be about pushing through and beyond boundaries of genres.

  11. “Belie” is the right word. Even if you bristle at prog’s ironic lack of forward thinking, if you REALLY thought prog sucks you wouldn’t listen to Pain of Salvation. :) You and I are in the same boat, man.

  12. I’m a music junky. As I get older my tastes have varied greatly, where as a young one I was a metalhead and everything else was garbage. Now it’s a bit of everything, but I have a special place for indie stuff now.

    Can’t help myself so for anyone interested a few to check out. Austerity Program, Big Business, Besnard Lakes, Do Make Say Think, Explosions In The Sky, Fuck Buttons, Oxbow, These Arms Are Snakes, Pelican, and This Will Destroy You.

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