Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It begs to warm its blue limbs by your fire

The Eraser has earned my $15 cash. Thom Yorke's first official solo outing would be appropriately characterized as the stripped down, logical continuance of a trajectory begun with Kid A. It is a bare bones, melodically focused experiment in sound manipulation, requiring repeated listens before it begins to imprint and create a context for itself. There is very little to accurately compare it to, other than some trite post-1997 Radiohead reference. Many aspects of disjointed emptiness and attention to space are explored...quivering synth and piano lines, periods of swelling analog sound mixed with rough hewn sampled beats. A highly textured environment results from a confounding excercise in cut and paste compostition, sounding mostly like laptop experimentation. Recent interviews have confirmed this approach. Bits of unused songs and newly composed portions were compiled, deconstructed, and reconfigured. A massive editing job by Radiohead producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich completed the project.

The digital and analog clicks and pops, along with a variety of light distortion, were left in the source material, or simply added to the finished product. The cut and paste approach more than likely produced some of these effects. They are almost perfectly placed. The digital hiss beneath the opening piano phrase on the title track, for example. Many of the synth textures sound primitive, analog. Jesus Himself has commented, "by the 10th track you feel like yr trapped in a video game from the 80's". The intentional paucity of bits certainly calls this to mind. Yorke's purposefully unsophisticated approach to electronic sound continues to amaze, and is given an open forum on the Eraser. It would be useful to avoid the label "minimalist"... and it is not completely electronic, as plenty of guitar and bass contribute to the overall melodic structure, along with his beautifully focused vocal work.

Eroc asked, "he's worried about something..yathink?", in reference to the video for Harrowdown Hill. The montage of nature, cities, riots, protests is unsettling in a way that is hard to define. Strangely enough, the most disturbing clips are the flyovers of roads and other infrastructure. They resemble highly articulated small-scale models. He is worried, but that Something appears to be of a more personal nature this time around. Human relationships, love, with all of its terrors and triumphs. This album will likely help to perpetuate the threadbare axiom of Yorke as the introverted, disturbed talent, awkwardly positioned fronting one of the biggest bands on a planet he is uncomfortable inhabiting. This image is simplistic, but enough of that paranoiac sense of urgency truly carries over from the Radiohead aesthetic.
Few gaps of actual silence are left open, but there is a sense of the mix allowing space for a deep tension, ultimately unresolved. Lyrically, it follows. The question of human relationships is apparently laid wide open, and left that way. Black Swan brims with the constant, lingering, remainder of ambiguity, "You cannot kickstart a dead horse...I'm for spare parts". The hintegedanka, concealed, but nauseatingly immanent. From Skip Divided, "I'm known to bite in tight situations, And I head into your french windows,I thought there was a big connection, I only got my name I only got my situation, I just need my number and location...yeah you're a fool for sticking round". Some of the more disturbing aspects of Bjork's work could be referenced here. In fact, in another interview on shelves this past month (not sure which publication), Yorke mentions his desire to cover "Unravel", from Homogenic, describing it in terms of sonic mastery.

As for worries about the world itself, which Yorke frequently acknowledges, the lyrics do not seem to explicitly examine the digestive model of active banalization or erasure, in his lexicon. Yorke clearly had this nearly untraceable phenomena in mind. Few have touched on it in pop music. In a recent interview, this principle is addressed directly"

From Paste Magazine, August 2006, Issue #23, by Jay Sweet:

Fortunately, when he explains why he titled the album The Eraser, he’s more forthcoming.

“I was reading this book about the death of Aldo Moro, the head of the Christian Democrat party in Italy who was murdered by the Red Brigades in the ’70s—which was a big deal when I was a kid. Before he died he’d written all these letters and was disowned and ‘erased’ from Italian Politics. Even before he died everyone was saying, ‘Well, he’s obviously lost his mind; the person writing these letters to newspapers in desperation is obviously not the real thing.’ It got me thinking. For me, a lot of the record is about living in a world where things like Iraq happen. You pick up The New York Times and there’s one little column saying ‘a bunch of soldiers blow away 100 people they’re trying to save because they were on speed’ and over on another column there’s some other small piece on how they should be brought home, OK and next page—the ability to erase these people from one’s [consciousness], partly in order to exist day-to-day, exists. Also, all these nightmare scenarios that are going on in the background. In Britain, it’s almost too much the other way. People in the U.K. are constantly talking about climate change right now, but the big fear is that it’s become some bizarre fad, and I’m a bit freaked because it doesn’t really work like that. Talk about ‘erasing,’ what about New Orleans? I mean Stipe and some other artists have been talking about it, but, oh my God, how can you do that? How can you erase all these people like they don’t exist? Obviously there’s the personal thought of me trying to erase this or that from my mind to move on because there are all these things going on, and then I thought, ‘No, the record is much more a response to the political environment and general public psyche.’ It’s a response to the ability to [snaps his fingers] and these issues can just go away."

An increasingly active process. So many potentially threatening developments are simply forgotten, not stricken from the record, but relegated to what the perennial MIT favorite calls "the memory hole". What is frightening is the speed of re-absorption into the machinery of historical coding. Certain things need not be hidden any longer. Just today, President Bush finally acknowledged the existence of a network of secret CIA prisons in foreign locations. This was uncovered months ago, but the administration has remained nearly silent until today. The moves are more perfectly planned than ever.

“In Britain there was a massive thing called the Hutton Inquiry, where there was this scientist, David Kelly, who was the chief chemical-weapons person in Britain. He was a whistle-blower on the lack of WMDs in Iraq. He was rather inconvenient, much like [outed CIA operative] Valerie Plame, so he was outed by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense by saying he was a leak, and that he was the one talking to the press when he shouldn’t, and he ended up ‘committing suicide.’ I feel really funny talking about it because he lived locally to us and I have friends who know his family, and to me, it’s this incredibly dark period in British life, where basically the entire country held the prime minister responsible for it because his press man said, ‘I want this guy rid of, I want him erased; I want him gone.’ So there was this Hutton Inquiry, which naturally said the Ministry of Defense was probably at fault with the way they handled his outing, so obviously the prime minister can’t be held responsible, which everyone thought was a crock of shit, but—poof—it went away; it was whitewashed. It was erased, and the culprits are all still there, and this poor man died for whatever reason. It seems like this very, very small thing, but it’s an expression of something much wider and much more frightening.”

The September Issue of Rolling Stone has an article on Daniel Pinchbeck, and his apparent status as the new cultural icon of psychedelia and the transformation of global consciousness. Commentary is in a first draft. Expect it soon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A really interesting and thoughtful piece, thank you.

12:33 PM  

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