Talking Music in a Studio in L.A.

I asked a female engineer in L.A. where I was recording a while back what music she listened to. She was tattooed with boldĀ  streaks of primary colors in her wildly uneven hair. I’d worked with her several times before and a change seems to have come over her–she’s a lot more relaxed, present, funnier. You look great, I tell her. I like the look. I really like the new hair. Thanks, she says and smiles. I’m guessing she’s in her early twenties. She was a bass player in a shoegazer band which she felt she had to act out for me, playing an imaginary bass and staring at her shoetops. She said, “It’s like everything slows to a crawl, but it doesn’t fall over.” She had a bracelet that I remarked on and she told me she made it out of a dog chain. I thought she would have an interesting take on music, but she said she hated the question. I said, “Oh, come on, just answer it.” And she told me she liked weird music that was primitive and played on toy pianos and such as if that would scare me away, and I said do you know CoCoRosie, they sound like your kind of band. And she said, “I love them!” She’d even seen them live, so I was jealous and asked her all about the show. And I said, “Do you know the Broken Social Scene? I saw them just last week. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. They just went on and on and on. And they ended with this wild freakout improvisation that they dedicated to Jack Kerouac and the Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the Allen Ginsberg library, which like humble pilgrims they’d visited that afternoon. It was like being in heaven for fifteen minutes.” She’s never seen the Social Scene but would love to sometime. (Not long after this conversation the Social Scene said they were finally over as a band, so she may not get that chance.) I ask her if she knows that avant garde girl group that opens for Sigur Ros, what’s their name? The classically trained chamber quartet that plays with Sigur Ros live but before the shows they get to do their own thing without their violins and violas and they stand around this long table with all sorts of stuff on it–spoons, glasses filled with different amounts of water, wooden sticks, iMacs, mouth harps, shoes, toy pianos, See ‘n’ Spells, wind-up toys, music boxes, and clarinets and they just make up some music, wandering around the table and picking up something and making noises with it. And it turns out that Sigur Ros is one of her favorite bands, and I tell her I’ve seen them on every U.S. tour, including the first one. (“Well, of course,” I think. “Every one would include the first one, sure.”) And I describe the last tour, the one where the band put a gauze curtain in front of the stage and then projected a live video feed of the band projected a few seconds off on both the front of the curtain and the back wall and they also extremely backlit the stage so the moving, distorted shadows of the performers were projected onto the other side of the curtain, and then the interior is lit too and you see not only the band members but the lights and the camera person filming the show and because you see what he is shooting projected simultaneously, you see both him and what’s he’s seeing at the same moment. And you’re also seeing four different live representations of the band in one three-dimensional image but none of it seems real, because of the extreme lighting conditions and the band playing behind a curtain and being distortingly backlit. And at that point I asked her again to tell me her favorite bands, and she rattled off a whole series of them whom I’d never heard of–except Mogwai and Florence and the Machine–so I stopped her and said, “Can you write them down for me, please?” Every single one of the bands I hadn’t heard of has been at least interesting. The appleseed cast are all over the map stylistically, from sonic landscapes to punkish anthem stadium rock to bubbly pop to psychedelic meanderings to synthetic sound to something approaching musique concrete–slabs of sound that don’t pretend to be “music.” They are almost a different band for every recording. The other bands she recommended were Bat for Lashes, Efterklang, Pomplamoose, Warpaint. But the one I keep returning to is appleseed cast. Maybe because there’s so much of it available. But Mogwai’s got at least as much out there and I don’t find myself returning to it. And then I asked her about Wild Flag, had she seen them live? I heard they’d recently played L.A. But she hadn’t. I had to work, she said, and frowned.

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