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Public·2 Beasts of No Nation

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The theory that a culture or, for that matter, any group of people has its own pure musical style which is subject to contamination has played an important role in ethnomusicology. Authenticity is the word which designates the quality, distinguishing pure material from that which is not pure. Karpeles (1951) provides a good statement of the position. No doubt the assumption of authenticity is related to the theories which propose specific and predictable musical styles for various types of culture, or race. There are facets to this theory which makes its application dangerous [...]

I think about my mortality enough without sad music to remind me that I can\u2019t do anything about the fact that I\u2019m barreling towards death. A Year Closer irritates me on its face because it\u2019s another one of those albums. For my own mental health I tend to avoid things with central themes of death, decay and dementia\u2014even the levity of a TikTok challenge isn\u2019t enough to soften the existential dread. Sometimes I can put the theme out of my mind if the music sounds cool or the theme only feels superficially relevant; Maths Balance Volumes\u2019s A Year Closer checks both of those boxes, and I\u2019m better off for it. It\u2019s an album that claims to be about death, but it doesn\u2019t do much to remind me of death. It reminds me of very little, frankly, because I feel like it does too much and consequently doesn\u2019t feel like it\u2019s about anything. It\u2019s a pretty enjoyable listen, anyway, and I appreciate that it doesn\u2019t make me want to look in the mirror and stress about my skin.[5]

It\u2019s in the compositional department where I\u2019m left feeling mixed. Many of the tracks on Literally Laughing Out Loud don\u2019t have a defined start or end, or much in the way of layering; samples are introduced, manipulated, played out, and then shuffled off stage in a pretty unceremonious fashion. On the few glimpses we do get of tracks with a stronger rhythmic center (\u201CEchoic Fun,\u201D \u201CFUNNY HOW,\u201D and \u201CSkip The Line\u201D), I can\u2019t help but think a much better album shows its face. As it is, I\u2019m not dissatisfied with what\u2019s there\u2014it never ceases to be interesting, at least\u2014but I\u2019m not all that satisfied, either. And while I won\u2019t argue that the album should have become some \u201CI MADE AN ENTIRE TRACK OUT OF LAUGHTER!\u201D YouTube video where sample microslices are EQ\u2019d within an inch of their life to serve as kicks, hi hats, and mirthless chord progressions, I do think there\u2019s something missing that prevents the album from being the exploration of \u201Claughter as a compositional material\u201D that it bills itself as.[6]

The benchmark for this kind of \u2018conceptual\u2019 music is B\u00E1nh M\u00EC Verlag\u2019s All Star Mixtape: on the surface, it seems like a massive troll, a novelty item. That\u2019s not necessarily incorrect. But the thing is, as the album unfolds and you think you have it figured out, it keeps on giving\u2014yeah, it\u2019s hilarious (already miles ahead of ALOL), but it also made me think deeply about questions of process, sampling, language, composition. Turns out you can have it all: a truly funny, entirely concept-driven album that still holds its own as a great work of art. ALOL falls far short of this benchmark, offering ephemeral music that simply goes in one ear and out the other, and a \u2018concept\u2019 that seems much deeper than it really is: for starters, it claims to address \u201Ccertain aspects of contemporary entertainment and popular culture\u201D\u2014but which \u2018aspects,\u2019 and in what way? It claims to \u201Cexplore humour as a subversive tool\u201D\u2014but how can it do that if it's neither funny nor subversive? The music is composed from laugh tracks. And...? How deep does this really go?

There is definitely a \u201Cpersistent excess of \u2018seriousness\u2019 in contemporary electronic music\u201D\u2014ALOL being a perfect example (!)\u2014but what about the persistent excess of shit music? Self-seriousness only becomes a real issue when the music in question is bad; if after hearing, say, Eliane Radigue\u2019s Adnos I-III\u2014a \u2018serious\u2019 album if there ever was one\u2014your takeaway is that musicians \u2018take things too seriously,\u2019 I'm not sure we can ever come to an agreement. Purely reacting to the surface-level \u2018seriousness\u2019 problem with equally surface-level \u2018humor\u2019 while sidestepping the fundamental issue\u2014mediocre, self-aggrandizing music\u2014seems like a one-way road to shallow gimmickry and disposable art, a negative project of reaction rather than a positive project of creation. When things are this forced, stilted, the laughter (spatial intervention?) dies out pretty quickly.

\u2018Serious\u2019 and \u2018funny\u2019 are not mutually exclusive opposites; in fact, the very best experimental works\u2014ones that might seem deadly \u2018serious\u2019 on the surface\u2014skillfully balance the two, toeing the line between perfection and farce and provoking genuine laughter and amazement along the way. If I\u2019ve fallen into the \u2018trap\u2019 by, well, taking all of this too seriously\u2014I\u2019ll fully own that, without hesitation.[1] 350c69d7ab


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