Saturday, August 29, 2015

Homework Vs. Human After All

Hey y'all.  So I've decided to really sit and listen to early Daft Punk.  Because I've always been sort of stuck on the Discovery period, I haven't really given much of a listen to their first and third albums, Homework and Human After All.  Post listen, it's pretty clear that Discovery eclipses them both. While Discovery had not a single bad track (though I admit I'm not that fond of Digital Love), these other albums by Daft Punk are shockingly weak.  Only a few of the songs were really listenable, and I feel lucky that in my early electronic days, I bought Musique instead of either of those.

But people like Homework.  It's "important" to them, as a part of the history of electronic music. Even when people acknowledge its weaknesses, they seem compelled to talk about its importance in the grand scheme of things.  As for Human After All, people complain about it, saying it's the worst album Daft Punk has ever done.

Allow me to speak the controversial, but true.  Homework is only marginally better than Human After All.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quickrant: Is Picard a Weenie?

Hey y'all.  So people have made the accusation that Captain Picard of Star Trek the Next Generation is a weenie, a wimp, and just nowhere near as brave as Captain Kirk.  At first, I wasn't entirely certain what they meant by it, but then I started watching some Trek to figure out if the accusation has any merit.

My conclusion:

Picard is a weenie... terms of women.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Nitpickery: Random Access Memories

Hey y'all.  So I went on and on about how Daft Punk compares to Infected Mushroom, and my overall conclusion is that Infected Mushroom has aged well, and Daft Punk hasn't aged so much as completely changed gears.  To be fair, some of that is due to the popularity of Daft Punk and subsequent fan expectation.  More of it has to do with Daft Punk's general sound; because of IM's classical background, they can do any type of sound and make it their own.  Because Daft Punk is a sampling band, they have less flexibility in the types of sounds and influences they have.

As far as my own background with Daft Punk is, I wasn't a pure fan of theirs back in their heyday. Sure, I liked some of their songs, but I was focused on other things rather than them.  At one point I did buy a compilation album of theirs, and that was when I really started to like them -- now I own Discovery and Interstella 5555.  In other words, I was kinda late to the Daft Punk party.  All the same I did learn to understand why they were such an electronic powerhouse.  Their intelligent use of sampling was highly catchy and invigorating.  At the same time, part of me is suspicious of their fame, wondering if their masks and popular early albums disguised a couple of guys who weren't ready for their explosion of popularity.

But at the moment I'm here to complain about Random Access Memories.  Because why not?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Infected Mushroom Part 3: the Rock Period

Hey y'all.  So at this point, Infected Mushroom started to really hit those rock/metal elements hard. This was not a smooth transition with a two disc feature, but a sudden bang into a violent new sound that prevails to this day.  Some met it with great gnashing of teeth, while others came into the fold with the sweet sounds that are a little more palatable to the general public.  Emphasis on little.  My mainstream sister would still flee in panic as fast as she could from this.

(I once had a manager who said she'd throw my Paul Oakenfold cd out of the window if it were her daughter's.  If Oakenfold scares her, I'd better not say anything about Duvdev and Eisen...)

The thing about this is that there was a concern over losing a lot of the trippiness that made Infected Mushroom unique.  They have gone from the intelligent, thinker's psytrance to more of a thematically metal sound, even when the songs themselves weren't technically metal.  It feels like instead of infusing their songs with philosophical dwellings, they infuse them instead with raw, emotional power.  Which raw, emotional power works better depends on which album you're talking about.

Album #6: Vicious Delicious

Friday, August 7, 2015

Infected Mushroom Part 2: The Electric Driven Period

Hey y'all.  So I mentioned in my previous post that there are three stages to Infected Mushroom, and this stage, containing Converting Vegetarians and IM the Supervisor, is what I'm going to call the electric driven period.  It's where Infected Mushroom broke from their original psytrance sound and decided to try new things. That doesn't mean they broke free instantaneously.  Fan expectations are always going to be problems, no matter who you are and what you do.

This is something I call "the webcomic effect."  It happens in every art form, but is most obvious in web comics.  That is, the writer/artist is in a process of learning what they want to do with their comic, and after a while, they figure out exactly what the plan is, often resulting in a comic becoming very different.  The trouble is, this realization of what the author wants often comes at a cost at alienating the things that early fans liked.  To the author, the things they stopped doing are just dead ends.  To the fans, those are important details that were never addressed, or the ideas that drew them in, but aren't being continued.

It happens with music, too.  In most cases, it happens later in music than it does in other art forms. The musician, at first, can do whatever is on his heart.  Later on, however, he has to make money if he wants to continue.  Or he can just be bored of the same old and want to try new things.  The latter is more than likely the motivation for Infected Mushroom's biggest change: a turn away from pure psytrance.  It was a slow change, and probably reflects who Erez and Duvdev are as people.  Nobody can stay producing the same stuff all the time, and this feeling already shows by their album history at this point.

For this period, Infected Mushroom finally emerged from the over-serious, artsy-fart intellectual depths of psytrance and allowed themselves to try new things.  I call it "electric driven" because even while IM is emerging from pure psytrance, they were not yet bringing in the rock influence that characterizes the albums of the next period -- they were, to my ear, drawing from other electronic music genres.  There's dance, techno, and vocal house influence all over these albums.  It's as though IM wants to experiment, but they're being extra careful not to stray too far from their audience.

However, they really were breaking free of fan expectations, and better yet, they were doing it on purpose.  They weren't simply making music until the fans got sick of it, or until they changed into people that no longer felt emotionally connected to the sound they produced.  They were making purposeful strides to change their sound choices so that not only would their sound not grow stale, but so their albums could grow alongside the band and their fans would be used to their change.

Album #4: Converting Vegetarians

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Infected Mushroom Part 1: The Psytrance Period

Hey y'all.  So I've been listening to a lot of Infected Mushroom of late, and I wanted to talk about my assessment of the band.  They're an Israeli duo, Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani, dedicated primarily to psytrance, or so the internet tells me.  Actually, what I wanted to talk about is the sound of this band.  See, one thing that has been said about every long-lasting band or singer ever is that they were better in their early days, and that they've changed for the worse over time.  I myself have made such a statement once (concerning Daft Punk -- we'll test that too).

However, I believe in saying things that are objectively true, even if they don't appear like objective statements -- only if a baby is adorable do I actually say a baby's adorable.  Granted, I have a broad definition of "cute" and I always find something nice to say about babies, but at the same time, I will avoid saying anything if a baby too closely resembles Winston Churchill.

But because this is music and not a nursery, I'm going to say what I please, remaining as objective as I can in a subjective realm.  And what I want to do is test the statement "Infected Mushroom was better in its old days" to see if this is true or not.  Now, unlike a band like Daft Punk, Infected Mushroom has no consistent sound.  While they are clearly an electronic band, they've done trance, techno, emo, rock, and even a country-ish song.  Every single album they produce has a different feel from the others.  Thus, who can say that they have a consistent sound?  We know what to expect from Daft Punk (or we used to), so there is an objective basis to critique how they've changed over time. Not so much IM.

As far as I have observed, there are three general categories of Infected Mushroom music.  Their first three albums were their psytrance period, the next two their electro period, and the last three were the rock period.  Even within these categories their albums weren't the same.  Particularly in their earliest phase.  While they were all well within the bounds of psychedelic trance, each of the three albums represented three different ideas.  Let's talk about them, shall we?

Album #1: The Gathering --