One of the drawbacks of getting older and more musically, uh, seasoned, is that after a certain point it becomes harder to find stuff that leaves you astonished. Not that anyone can ever hear everything that is out there, but when you listen to, study, and write music all the time, after a while you become pretty accustomed to the possibilities. Which is also not (at all) to say that music that follows your expectations is therefore necessarily “bad.”
It’s just that, for me, “astonishment” is the quality that moves a given song out of the realm of “the great,” and into the realm of “the stellar.” Astonishment is the thing I seek above all in my listening. It’s the thing most likely to bring on the euphoric rush (if you know what I mean). Yes, there are multiple other pleasures that I get from listening — the pleasure of abstract thinking, the pleasure of certain forms of familiarity — but this euphoric rush is the holy grail for me, and without it, I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing.
And with that lead-in, I present the above video, from the British band Acoustic Ladyland. It has been one of the first things to astonish me in a long time.
I posted this on my Facebook account last night, prompting a brief exchange with Ian C. (trombonist extraordinaire, of Industrial Jazz Group, Tin Horn Justice, and, hopefully soon, blogging-in-this-space fame). An excerpt:
Rev. Ian Carroll at 10:54pm July 2
Andrew Durkin at 10:57pm July 2
Possibly my new favorite band.
Rev. Ian Carroll at 10:59pm July 2
same here, dude. this is the type of band that makes you wanna drive 72 miles to the 24 hour record store (i wish) and buy the goddamn album…after hearing only 5 seconds of the music
Exactly. The thing is, I can’t really explain why this music made my jaw drop. (Incidentally, the rest of the album that this comes from, Skinny Grin, is excellent too.)
The tune is based on the simplest riff in the world. There’s a cool interlocking groove (listen for the keyboard part, and especially the piano re-harmonization at the end), but I’ve heard cool interlocking grooves before. Why did this one stand out? I don’t know. But it underscores something I am pursuing more and more in my own writing: powerful and provocative simplicity. (I’m not saying I’ve found it — “powerful and provocative simplicity” is, ironically, very difficult to attain.)