The Hang of Music: The Moebius Suibeo Meht
Two reviews in four days? Surely not! And yet I’m sticking to this week’s deadline, like glue on a hard, slightly roughened surface, thus increasing it’s stickability, then with a set of magnets placed on either side of me and the deadline. I like magnets.
Today… Who should I review? Hmmm…
I’ve got it! Odd, nineties dance music! No, not french house! British stuff! No, not the “Funk Soul Brother”, either! Prepare yourselves for Orbital, with their debut – known informally as “The Green Album”.
(No, not that American surf rock band either!)
As I started writing this, I had a tough time finding a track to put above the jump. This is because, when I put a track on the header, I usually try to go for something which has instant appeal and will grab you, the audience. This is a really tricky thing to do when only two of the tracks on the album are UNDER 6 MINUTES LONG. OK, one of them is 5:57, and so doesn’t quite qualify, but the other is 0:52, and is not even a song. More like them messing with the sound of them unplugging amps, and playing two chords on piano. The other 9 tracks are much longer.
The thing about dance music is that the tracks are long, very long and build inexorably towards… something. Outside of a club environment, there’s much less happening in the music itself in any one bit. This is a bit of a barrier to writing a proper review this, actually. My usual approach of “let it soak in” isn’t really going to work. I’d need a huge crowd and a dancemat in my room to make it work properly.
I don’t have those things, but nonetheless, I’m going to give it my best shot!
The album starts with by quoting Worf and Geordi on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That is an auspicious start to an album. More songs need to use weird TV show/film references in their ouvre. I can only think of a few suitable uses of nicked lines off the top of my head*, but I’m sure there’re plenty. The line that they use is used well, and does a fine job of playing with the medium, as it’s about being stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop, and being unable to Fight Fate.
On a second listen, I’m starting to get quite a bit more of all of the rather impenetrable song titles. Songs like “Desert Storm” and “High Rise” use both sound effects and modulators to imply what and where they’re supposed to be.** Those subtle hints are brilliant, and exactly the sort of thing that you shold be doing in songs like this.
If I had to make a comparison here, I’d have to say Kraftwerk – the keyboards on “Desert Storm” remind me quite a bit of “Space Lab” – but happier. Oh god, so much happier. But beyond that it’s hard to say that they sound like anyone, because it’s hard to say that they sound like anything. It’s all very slow, and builds up, but I don’t feel like the songs do anything.
You see, this album is my punishment for being tardy last week. Not because it’s bad, so much as it was poorly as a subject to review. “The Green Album” is not the sort of album that you just sit down and devote your time and attention to. Whenever their songs come up on random, and I’m walking from one place to another, I like what I hear.
But to sit and listen to all of its 1 hour 17 minutes entireity is too much, especially considering how one of the main joys of dance music is not their instant listenability, but their slow, building, patient charm. Most often, I find each track takes at least the length of a normal song just to get properly started, and put all of the bits in place so that everything can *really* begin. Despite that, though, I do find my toe tapping along to the tunes sometimes. “High Rise” and “Midnight (Live)” are really good. They’d be even better in the right environment.
This is an album for mixing to and from. I suspect it was never intended to be sat down and listened to. Ah well; what do the authors know about how I should enjoy their music? I sure showed them!
* Doctor Steel’s “Land of the Lost”; everything “Does It Offend You, Yeah” have ever done; etc. If you footnote reading lot have anything to add, now would be the time!
*In an army helicopter and in a lift respectively. And suddenly it’s obvious!