Saturday, July 30, 2022

Book Nook: Music Made Words

Books take longer to consume than records, so I find it hard to be as up to the moment with my reading as I am with my listening. But I'm always reading and most of that is (shocker) music books. Here are a few notable books on music from recent years.

Laurie Anderson’s Big Science by S. Alexander Reed (2021) It was over 40 years ago that I first became aware of Laurie Anderson, introduced by a double-page spread in Life Magazine’s The Year In Pictures. There she was, spiky-haired and playing a violin with a magnetic tape bow. Mike Tyson was a page or two over, shot from the back to emphasize his impossibly thick neck. But it was Anderson who intrigued me, having already developed an interest in avant garde music. Oddly enough, however, when people around me were going nuts over her 1982 debut album, Big Science, it kept me at arms length. Maybe the possibilities the photo had set whirling in my mind were too different from what I was hearing to be reconciled. I kept up with her over the years, though, intrigued by her collaboration with William S. Burroughs and later charmed by her relationship with Lou Reed. But it wasn’t until Landfall, her 2017 album with the Kronos Quartet, that I truly fell in love with one of her pieces.

Big Science still loomed, however, so when Reed’s book showed up, I welcomed the opportunity to take a deeper dive into its background and creation. This handsome little book is the 15th in Oxford’s Keynotes series, and only the second to take on a work of the second half of the 20th century, following John T. Lysaker’s 2018 book on Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports. It’s also the third book for Reed, following Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music and an entry in the 33 1/3 series on They Might Be Giants. And while Reed, a professor at Ithaca College, occasionally writes like the academic he is, the book is mostly a fizzy read, with his excitement about following Anderson’s trail of creativity coming through loud and clear. He also doesn’t shy away from musicological dissection when it seems useful, but always provides a way in for the uninitiated, using musical examples that almost everyone will know.

I was especially taken with his brilliance in setting up a structure that takes into account the album’s creation in the past and how it exists now. I’ll let him explain: 
“Foremost, I'm interested in the circa 1980 creation of these songs: "now" in the sense of chronos, or historical sequence. How did their concept, text, and music develop, and in dialogue with what real-world artifacts and events?…Second, I also describe what it's like to inhabit a private listening encounter, marking time not by dates and eras but from second to second: "now" in the sense of kairos, or experiential action. Third, I ask without nostalgia how Big Science resonates now in the twenty-first century, acknowledging in the book’s final chapter what some have heard as an eerie prescience in the record.” (Reed, Page 3)
This is a paradigmatic way to approach a work of the past and will be a great guide next time I revisit a classic album.

As for this classic album, Reed’s three-dimensional excavation and explication of the musical and conceptual components of every song, made the end result - when it works - even more impressive. There are still a couple of duff tracks - Sweaters, for one - that no amount of advocacy will rescue, but I find myself more immersed when listening to the songs I do like. Reed also gives Anderson her due as an extraordinarily brave, intelligent, and original artist in three mind-expanding chapters on her relationships with the musical context of the time (“New Music Versus New Wave”), sexuality and gender, and politics. People often bemoan the lack of liner notes in the streaming era. Reed’s book makes up for that lack - and then some - for an album that is a nearly bottomless well of fascination.

Ted Gioia - Music: A Subversive History (2019) Near the end of this enthralling, game-changing book, Gioia notes:

"...every major music genre today echoes, at least in part, some of the imperatives of prehistoric song. The rock star evokes the scapegoat from ancient rituals of symbolic violence. The country artist re-creates the pastoral strains of the herders, who relied on music to soothe domesticated animals, and celebrates the stable life of home and hearth. The hip-hopper returns to the monophonic chant that served to unite the first human communities, the oldest 'hoods of them all. The pop star draws an audience with erotic stylings and dance moves that remind us of the fertility rituals that gave birth to the love song." (Gioia, Page 450)

If any of that sounds farfetched to you, you desperately need to read this book. If it sounds like something you almost take for granted but don't understand why, you also need to read this book. Each one of those examples is based on broad research, and spectacularly synthesized into a text that informs you even as it excites you. Gioia goes DEEP, looking beyond and away from musicology to explore the transformative power of song, from the use of chants to scare away alpha predators from prey so human's could feed themselves to the ongoing threats to those in power from the artists engaged in a long line of "permanent revolution," such as Pussy Riot, those punk rock thorns in Putin's side. 

A key point he makes over and over again is that musical innovation almost always comes from where you least expect it - the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized - a trope that goes back to the earliest civilizations. Perhaps even more importantly, he notes that when rulers make claims about musical innovations they brought about, we need to "study these powerful figures in musical history, not for what they did, but for what they hid." That last quote come Gioia's Epilogue: This Is Not A Manifesto, 40 statements about music and its role in life and society. He describes them as precepts that forced him to "alter his beliefs" as he was researching and writing. Reading Music not only altered some of my beliefs but helped me to reposition my relationship to music, narrowing down for me what is of core importance in the music I love, and for that I am immensely grateful to Gioia. 

Alan Niester - Beyond The Printed Page: The Life And Times Of A Big Time Rock Critic (2014) The title for this often hilarious book is slightly misleading. While the first 50 pages or so detail, in his wry and witty style, his upbringing and the winding path he took to becoming a music journalist, the next 250 comprise reprints of concert reviews from Niester's time as a critic at the Toronto Globe And Mail. Not that there's anything wrong with that - and the reviews have more personality than most memoirs - but I wouldn't have minded a bit more "life" along with the "times," especially since he's got killer anecdotes, like the time he rode a bicycle from Niagara Falls, Ontario to downtown Buffalo for a concert, or playing in a garage band with future Bowie/Iggy axe-man Stacey Heydon, or nearly starting a race riot with a very drunk Lester Bangs. Lord knows what tales are still in the vault! 

The live reviews, however, constitute a fascinating, and often very funny, chronicle of the state of rock and pop from the Ramones in 1978 ("an explosion of torn jeans, aging black leather, and cultivated acne") to Jeff Mangum in 2011 ("intense but casual"). In between you get upstarts struggling to establish themselves, like U2 in 1980 ("one of the most vital and interesting new bands I've seen in the past few years"), to hall-of-famers struggling to live up to their past, like Carole King in 2005 ("She has developed a noticeable Rod Stewart rasp, most evident in the high notes and higher volumes"). Every review is a breeze to read and never less than interesting, and a few are all-time classics, such as Niester's snarky but evenhanded response to the Jonas Brothers in 2009, which he structures like a report card, grading them lowest on their lyrics: 

"English - D. Sadly, the boys' lyrics are cliché-ridden and banal, and filled with grammatical mistakes. For example, in the song World War III, they insisted they didn't want to fight "wit chyou" (sic). In Poison Ivy (not the Coasters' classic) they claimed that "Everybody needs some Poison Ivy." This is clearly wrong." (Niester, Page 299)

I look forward to having Niester's book on hand when needing to refer to a real-time reaction to a legendary band, say when writing an anniversary review. I will make sure to correct any typos, which are rife in the book, when quoting him, however. In the end, while his true love is prog-rock (he finally convinced me to listen to Wishbone Ash - the guitars are indeed great), he brings a broad knowledge and love of the music to everything he reviews, providing a fine example for critics everywhere and a fun read for everyone else.

Paul McCartney - The Lyrics: 1956 to Present (Edited with an Introduction by Paul Muldoon) (2021) This is a sly book in so many ways. From the start, Sir Paul admits he will never write a memoir but he’s happy to go song by song and talk about the process and context behind them and let something of himself take shape in your mind. Then there’s the fact that the first thing 90 percent of people will think when hearing his name is an endless spool of melody, then his fantastically versatile voice (at least in its prime), then his remarkable skill as a multi-instrumentalist. Lyrics could be dead last, although he has certainly crafted some gems, whether Blackbird, Dear Friend, Eleanor Rigby, For No One, or She’s Leaving Home, which are marvels of compressed emotion and/or narrative.

You’ll note that my little list of songs is alphabetical, which hints at my only real frustration with the book. Rather than progress through his songwriting chronologically, which would allow you to see his skills develop, from the “pronoun songs” of the early Beatles to the more allusive and surrealist stuff that came later, we are led alphabetically. Ordering them this way could also be his bid to reduce the distance between his achievement as a Beatle and his solo years, to which I say: Nice try. Moreover, putting things chronologically would also allow him to build on stories, such as the "Nerk Twins" Paris trip of 1961, or The Beatles in India, rather than just have them crop up here and there as fits the song under discussion. I suspect it's all in the game of one of the world's most famous people holding on to a shred of his privacy. 

That's not so say that The Lyrics isn't a revealing book. It's satisfying to read that even he his baffled by The Beatles' shocking trajectory, as when he says when talking about Eleanor Rigby: “To this very day, it still is a complete mystery to me that it happened at all...All these small coincidences had to happen to make The Beatles happen, and it does feel like some kind of magic. It’s one of the wonderful lessons about saying yes when life presents these opportunities to you. You never know where they could lead.” In the entry for Carry That Weight, he describes the business meetings as The Beatles headed to dissolution as "soul-destroying" - and you feel his pain at friendships and collaborations being ripped apart. He also goes deeper on his complicated relationship with that most complex of characters, John Lennon.

Naturally, there are plenty of instructive tidbits about his approach to songwriting, as when he remarks about Come And Get It, which he wrote for Badfinger: “But I was trying to write a hit, so I didn’t want anything too complicated.” He is also not shy about his bossy side, describing how he told the band not to change a thing from his demo (which he recorded in 15 minutes) rather than trying to "interpret" his song. Bossy, but 100 percent right as proven by the song's chart success.

He also drills down a little on his attraction to the ordinary, which stems from the working class roots he continues to stay in touch with, even with his fabulous wealth. In the section on Café On The Left Bank, he notes: 

"I'm actually quite a fan of 'ordinary'. I hope in many ways it defines me, and so also many of the songs I've written. Don't get me wrong; I like extraordinary people and things, but if people can be great and ordinary at the same time, that to me is kind of special. So my Liverpool family - my parents, all the aunties and uncles - they were great and ordinary, and I think the fact that this combination can be easily dismissed makes it even more special. So many people would dismiss my Liverpool family, but they're actually a lot smarter than the likes of Maggie Thatcher, say. Their attitude to life was not as uptight as many people I've encountered since. They were always up for a song around the pub piano, for example. So you can choose to be highly sophisticated but very uptight, or you can be not so sophisticated but at peace with yourself. I try and be a bit of a mixture, and I draw very strongly on that ordinariness."

One thing that is decidedly not ordinary is the physical heft and beauty of The Lyrics, which comes as two splendidly illustrated volumes in a handsome green slipcase. The photographs, may of them unfamiliar to me, are only surpassed by the artifacts, whether handwritten lyrics or drawings (many of which are quite good - another talent!), which make the books a joy just to flip through. Speaking of heft, the 858-page book only contains lyrics for 156 songs out of the 500 or so Sir Paul has written or co-written. Not only does that give you an idea of how much additional material is contained within, it also lets you know that songs were selected based on what McCartney wanted to get across. So Why Don't We Do It In The Road is here, giving him an opportunity to talk about the primal urge to procreate, while a late-career near masterpiece like Riding To Vanity Fair is left out - perhaps its still too soon to talk about what led to that dark-hued number. 

But as Paul himself says when talking about the line "Spending someone's hard-earned pay" in Two Of Us: "I don't know where that came from or what it means. I don't necessarily want meaning. I don't root for meaning all the time. Sometimes it just feels right." And this book, on the whole, feels very right. Make room on your groaning shelf of Beatles books for one more!

You may also enjoy:
Getting Back To Let It Be
Not The Price But The Cost
The Book Of Fab
The Beatles Thing
Overdosed On Pleasure: The Book Of Nilsson

Sunday, July 03, 2022

The Best Of 2022 (So Far)

While the news keeps finding new ways to be terrible, music keeps finding new ways of bringing joy,  inspiration, energy, calm, and even a satisfying dose of mirrored despair, to our lives. Here are 25 of the best ways its done that in 2022. Much gratitude to all the artists pushing through and delivering these remarkable albums to my ears!

As usual, anything that's been reviewed previously is linked to those earlier words. You can listen to selections from most of these albums in this playlist or below. Otherwise, find them on Bandcamp - and consider paying for the privilege of listening.

1. Angel Olsen - Big Time This magnificent album is a dream come true for me. Pairing Olsen's glorious voice and incisive, informed songwriting with the genius production of Jonathan Wilson is an idea so delicious that I never even thought to hope for it. They both outdo themselves, too. Olsen cuts to the bone over and over again as she processes the recent grief of losing both her parents, the painful process of becoming ever more herself, and the overwhelming joy of finding true love. When she sings "Never thought the day would come/When I would find someone/To love me only," it's impossible not to believe her and root for her new relationship with Beau Thibodeaux, who also co-wrote the soaring title track. Wilson, who plays drums on every song, marshals some of the same deep knowledge of Americana he displayed on his last album, Dixie Blur, even lending a "countrypolitan" grandeur to some tracks, like This Is How It Works with its weeping pedal steel. But Olson and Wilson are not tied to any particular genre, giving each song just what it needs. When they bring on Drew Erickson and Dan Higgins, for string and horn arrangements respectively, the widescreen approach is reminiscent of All Mirrors, Olsens's 2019 epic. There's no better example of this than the stunning Go Home, which starts out dead simple, just two chords from Erickson's piano and Emily Elhaj's bass, and Wilson's ticking percussion. Olsen first enters quietly: "The world is changing/You can't reverse it," but soon pushes her voice into the stratosphere: "I wanna GO HOME/Go back to SMALL THINGS" and the music gathers itself to catch up, with sweeping strings, stentorian horns, and Wilson's fuzz guitar bringing the hammer down. When the song returns to earth and Olsen sings, almost to herself, "Forget the old dream/I got a new thing," all you can do is agree. It's a wonderful thing, too.

5. Hollie Cook - Happy Hour When someone's mission statement is pure delight, each new album becomes more and more like a high-wire act: how can she keep it up? Which makes Cook's big, bold fourth album even more thrilling. While still sticking to her patented blend of lovers rock and sunshine pop, she does expand that fabulous formula a little. Whether it's the strings on Gold Girl, which should be the next James Bond theme, the guest spot on Kush Kween from Jah9, whose florid style shows off Cook's clean soprano perfectly, the hints of dancehall on Love Is A Losing Game, or the 90s dance rhythms of Move My Way, she pushes the envelope with aplomb. My favorite characters on the recent Pistol miniseries were Paul Cook's parents, who were loving and warmly supportive of their son's musical ambitions. With them as her grandparents, Cook's bounteously beauteous spirit must run deep in her blood. Get a transfusion here.

10. Jascha Narveson - Flash Crash + Remixes According to his notes, Narveson "...crafted Flash Crash especially for internationally acclaimed cellist Ashley Bathgate out of raw stock market data culled from high-frequency trading bots" - a sentence that tickles my mind the same way the music here excites my ears. The main piece finds Bathgate carving a gorgeous line through Narveson's electronics, like an expert skier cutting through the trees. It's a rich, deeply involving piece on its own, then all hell breaks loose - in the best way - when Narveson's collaborators get their hooks into things. And the word "hooks" is especially appropriate for Lorna Dune's remix, which finds catchy bits in the original and bolts them to a four-on-the-floor beat, cooking up a killer groove. It's the perfect follow up to Matthew D. Gantt's take, which adds percussion and clarinet samples to create a type of artificial chamber music. Lainie Fefferman manipulates the sound of the cello to create a character study she calls Repairbot Q Sent To Engine Room 3, Working Through The Loneliness, which is as good a description as any for the fun and feeling to be found throughout the album. Angelica Negron sends Bathgate deeper into space, with pulsing beats moving through like debris from a dead satellite. Then Vadislav Delay - a "Finnish electronic music legend," apparently - drops the hammer with serrated power chords and breaking glass, treating Narvson's original like a trash compactor treats a robot. What a way to go! 

11. Horsegirl - Versions Of Modern Performance Smashing debut from a Chicago-based trio (Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals), Nora Cheng (guitar, vocals), and Gigi Reece (drums)) who know exactly what they want from their sound. Picking up on 90's alt, 80's indie, 70's post-punk, and even a touch of 60's psych as they blast through their songs, their division of labor finds guitars acting as basses and (maybe) basses acting as guitars. Occasionally, they pause for an artfully fractured instrumental but with Reece pummeling away in the engine room, it's a very unified sound. Veteran producer John Agnello may have helped give the guitars a burnished quality that comforts even as it energizes. Deadpan but melodic vocals complete the picture to deliver lyrics that are allusive, elusive, and often mantric, like the repetition of "How does it breathe?" from Beautiful Song. Pleased to meet them and I think you will be, too.

12. Sarah Plum - Personal Noise In 2015, I worried that I would have trouble keeping up with Plum’s boundless curiosity and tireless efforts to expand the violin repertoire. Then I had to wait seven years for her next album, although she has been busy as a performer, teacher, and commissioner of new works. Thankfully, this colorful, varied, and passionate album was worth the wait. It kicks off with Eric Moe’s Obey Your Thirst (2014), which opens with a synthetic exhalation as if to say, “Now, where was I?” before launching in to a spiky dialog between Plum’s strings and his electronics. It’s a rhythmic piece, with digital percussion that seems to be driving the violin at a breathless pace. Eric Lyon’s Personal Noise With Accelerants (2015) follows, continuing the jagged rhythmic feel and high tempo. It’s fully acoustic, but features a structure determined by white noise. Kyong Mee Choi’s Flowering Dandelion (2020) slows things down a bit, filling the space with starlit electronics that occasionally remind me of the transporter on Star Trek. Sarahal (2013) by Mari Kimura adds Yvonne Lam on second violin and interactivity to the electronics for a flight into even deeper space. Several of these pieces were written for Plum and are featured here in their world-premiere recordings, including After Time: A Resolution (2013) by Jeff Harriott and Il Prete Rosso (2014) by Charles Nicholls. Both works also feature interactivity and a bit of randomness but feel fully realized in these performances even as they search for resolution. Mari Takano’s Full Moon (2008) literally ends the album with a bang, or at least several explosions of pounding sound. Plum sails through it all flawlessly, once again proving that close collaboration with composers and deep engagement with the work is a recipe for artistic success.

14. String Orchestra Of Brooklyn - Enfolding String orchestras of America! Those intrepid folks at the String Orchestra Of Brooklyn have given you your season-opening program right here! You don't even need to add the Barshai Shostakovich arrangement, which I'm sure you've played hundreds of times - and I love Shostakovich! First you get Scott Wollschleger's Outside Only Sound, specifically commissioned by the orchestra to be ready to play with minimal rehearsal and to work well outdoors. With each player operating semi-independently and added spice from percussion instruments, this live recording from Fort Greene Park works a treat, with "outside" noises - laughter, chatter, sirens - integrating but not interfering with the skirling storm of sound. There's no reason why it can't be played in the concert hall, however, so don't try to worm out of it that way. Then you get Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s expansive With Eyes The Color Of Time, which was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Composition. Based on pieces in The Contemporary Museum in her native Honolulu, there is a strong narrative thrust to the eight parts. Starting with the long, exhaling lines of The Bronze Doors and taking you through the dense scrapes and scratches of Les Sortilèges and on to the warm resolution of Enfolding, it adds up to a very satisfying whole. With both pieces coming in at a little under an hour, this program will leave you enough time for cocktails with your subscribers, who will throw money at you for the next season. Just don't try to claim bragging rights for the world-premiere recordings - the String Orchestra Of Brooklyn already beat you to it on this excellent album.

15. Tomberlin - I Don't Know Who Needs To Hear This... Who knew sonic adventure could be so quiet? In the four years since her debut, At Weddings, Sarah Beth Tomberlin has maintained utter control over the dynamics of her songs, but manages to fill them with exquisite details that deepen the experience. A perfect example is Tap, with its ticking percussion (Kenny Wollesen, from Sylvie Courvoisier's trio), plucked cello (the great Gyða Valtýsdóttir), and gentle woodwinds (Stuart Bogie and Doug Wieselman), all combining into a little miracle of a musical engine. Tomberlin coproduced the album with Philip Weinrobe so I don't mention all those notable musicians to remove any agency from her achievement here, but rather to add to it. The strength of her songwriting is what attracts players like that and the strength of her vision is what has them combining to make such specific sounds. Her voice is even more wondrously light and supple than in the past, delivering the deeply felt poetry of her lyrics with a gossamer ease. The words will repay your attention, too. This line, also from Tap, is one of my favorites: "Do you think about the trees in the breeze/How they swing and scream and talk and breathe/I wish I was so tall and green/ Swing my branches only sing for me." Thank goodness Tomberlin sings for us, too.

17. Soccer Mommy - Sometimes, Forever Sophie Allison, who records as Soccer Mommy, pushed the sound and passion of her indie rock into new places on her last album, 2020's richly dynamic Color Theory. Rather than repeat herself on this, her third official album, she made the genius decision to work with Daniel Lopatin, who records electronic music as Oneohtrix Point Never and also made the brilliant soundtrack for Uncut Gems. This doesn’t mean Allison has made an electronic album, however, although there are more synthetic textures woven in than in the past. Rather, the collaboration has created a sleek and powerful album, gleaming with sonic jewel tones, where every sound seems placed deliberately in the mix. "...I want perfection/Tight like a diamond," she sings in Unholy Affliction, putting her cards on the table. Yet even if nothing here is casual, there's still plenty of heat generated by Allison and her band mates, especially drummer Rollum Haas, who pushes and pulls the rhythm in original ways. The key track for me is Darkness Forever, which has some of the hypnotic wash of I Want You (She's So Heavy) from Abbey Road but addresses the seduction of suicide as a relief from the pain of mental illness rather than the search for an elusive lover. Images of fire and water throughout the album lend elemental strength to the struggle within, but the ultimate triumph - ambiguous as it is - is the transformation of all this hurt into art. As long as she can keep doing that, she'll keep the devil on his leash - and keep us listening, raptly.

18. Revelators Sound System - Revelators There was a taste of this new project from Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor on last year’s The Sounding Joy, a selection of dub versions from his anti-holiday-album holiday album. O Come All Ye Faithful. That collaboration with Spacebomb magus Cameron Ralston slowed and stretched the songs, creating a warm bath of healing music that doubled down on the premise of the album itself. Rather than building on previous recordings, however, the four long tracks here make their own way, meandering in a most wonderful way through the minds of musicians who have absorbed the atmospheric majesty of Lee “Scratch” Perry and Miles Davis. But everything here is infused with the distinctive tang of Richmond, VA and Asheville, NC, adding a wonderful dimension to both the Hiss and Spacebomb projects, and creating a place of comfort where ever you happen to be.

19. Wilco - Cruel Country I'm not sure Jeff Tweedy has thrown down a songwriting masterclass like this since Sukirae in 2014. Across the 21 songs here he finds words and melodies that make classic themes seem new. The album is filled with gentle acoustic sounds and some songs have a strong country music inflections, the title is a clever feint incorporating the band's insider/outsider relationship with America and American music. "I love my country," Tweedy sings in the title track, as the band plays jauntily, "Stupid and cruel." While Tweedy wrote the songs, the arrangements were ginned up live in the studio, with all players contributing in a way that hasn't happened since The Whole Love in 2011. So, while there's lots of breezy strumming, and even pedal steel, the old adventurousness is still there in subtler form, as in the psychedelic shimmer of Bird Without A Tail/Base Of My Skull or the slightly dissonant French horn in Darkness Is Cheap. Lyrically, the songs mostly address either national politics or personal politics, which can each serve as metaphors for the other. But there are also a number of literally cosmic moments, such as The Universe and Many Worlds, which center the album in bigger themes. The song I keep going back to, however, is Falling Apart (Right Now), which might just be the best song Buck Owens or Roger Miller never wrote. Witty and perfectly constructed, it features stellar playing that would rival any Nashville session band. On their 12th album, Wilco has offered up quite a feast and even if Tweedy is preaching to the choir on songs like Hints, with its refrain of "There is no middle when the other side/Would rather kill than compromise," I'm happy to sing along.

23. Bakudi Scream - Final Skin Albums like Barry Adamson's Moss Side Story pioneered the soundtrack in search of a movie. Now, Rohan Chander, under his new Bakudi Scream alias, has given us a soundtrack in search of a video game, not unlike what Phong Tran gave us on The Computer Room. The first hint of what was to come on this startling, immersive, and, heartfelt new collection came at the height of lockdown, when pianist Vicky Chow premiered The Tragedy of Hikikomori Loveless on one of many spirit-rescuing online marathons from Bang On A Can. The video confused and delighted viewers as Chow triggered synthetic sounds from a MIDI-enhanced piano and voices popped in and out of the mix. Unsurprisingly for a COVID-era piece, a central theme here is loneliness, building on documentary Chander watched about hikikomori, a form of extreme withdrawal which has young Japanese people living reclusively with their parents, unable work, attend school or participate in society in any meaningful way. Just as the bad guys get all the best lines in movies, a villainous character called Somnus has some of the richest music in a three-part piece that's the heart of the album. Part 1, Nightmusic, sparkles and shimmers seductively, sucking you in to a reverie only to boot you out of the game with the sampled voice of a blues singer saying: "What I wanna know, is why don't you love me like you used to do?" It's just one of many moments where Chander stuns you with his deep humanity, putting real flesh and bone under this final skin. 

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