The first time listening to Ligeti is a trip. It changes you. Film a baby laughing, hundreds of monarch butterflies in migration, or a peaceful lake in the dawn of a perfect summer’s day. A small helping of Ligeti on top and suddenly all of these scenes become fucking nightmares. It draws the depravity, the nauseating monotony, the existential fucking rage of all of it. That baby? A pinch of Ligeti and you’re convinced that baby is the unloving creator of us all and laughing directly at our feeble attempts at existence. Those butterflies? Just a smidge and it’s a single consciousness spread amongst thousands of beings unknowingly following a desire within themselves they do not control. That fucking lake. That stupid fucking lake. That watery bitch. A dash of our man and it’s eating happy splashy people. Metal? Naw, dude. Metal is kids with guitars wanting to be rock stars and having an excuse to wear makeup. Metal is cute. Noise music? Please. It’s a wall of sound. A sonic boulder. Big, bold, and easy to walk away from. Ligeti fucks with you. It gets inside of you. His technically precise and haunting music perniciously infects you. It’s fun in this fantastically sick way, the same way a thick scream from the loudest track you can imagine is fun. It’s angry. It’s rebellious. It’s so wrong it turns left till it’s alright again. Sure, there are days when Ligeti isn’t enjoyable. But then there are those other days, those demon days, the days when the only way to express yourself is by screaming so hard blood paints your tongue and then you lick that shit like the cat that got the cream. Ligeti days. On these days? Nothing else can quench that bawdy barbarity.
Let’s start with the easy shit: Étude No. 13, L’escalier du diable / The Devil’s Staircase. Strangely, this track sounds exactly what that name suggests. You feel like you’re on a staircase to hell and, hot fuck, it’s moving fast. This shit is so thick it gets hit on at the club. It’s so chewy vegans won’t eat it. It’s a demonic slide full of creepy crawlies and it’s fun as hell. For the few fucks that don’t know, the sign ‘f‘ on sheet music, it means you gotta play that shit “loud or strong.” Well, this motherfucker’s got a chord that’s played as ‘ffffffff‘. No shit. That’s the notation. Ligeti is just waiting for the motherfucker with enough stones to kick the shit out of the piano and spit on its broken body before taking a shit inside then taking their bow. The idea of build, harshness, and repetition on this piece is essential for its sonic and ideological hellscape. For those of you that enjoy darkness done right, here’s your motherfucker.
Lux Aeterna, Ligeti’s most famous piece. Why? Because it’s on the fucking soundtrack to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick was incessantly tumescent for Ligeti. You know how shit just doesn’t feel right in The Shining? That’s Ligeti. What about the added creep to Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut? You fucking guessed it, Ligeti. There’s a reason his shit works in Kubrick’s film. This song is a grand and beautiful choir singing out into grand expanse and coming to terms with a demonic force, something like an A.I. that’s fanatical about your demise, mayhaps? This piece, all around, is a tough flex. It’s slow. It’s moiling. It’s got cluster chords and this tight shit Ligeti calls micropolyphony. This basically means different motherfuckers singing in different tempos and rhythms. This gives each member of the choir a “where the fuck did you just come from!” feel. It’s the musical version of someone creeping behind you without you knowing about it. FUCK! Where did you come from baseline? The fuck out of here! SHIT! Tenor, you freaked me out! By the way, they be singing Latin up in this bitch. Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis, which means “May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with thy saints in eternity, for thou art merciful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.” The message is chill, kinda, but how it’s done is freaky as hell. In the end the execution makes this shit straight up existential. It turns eternal life into living fucking forever. Like, forever-ever. Ever-ever. The planet is dead. The sun is burnt out. And you’re just some dumb fuck floating in entropic blackness propelling yourself with farts. This piece sticks to your shit like ass hair.
Ligeti wasn’t all just soundtracks and dope chops, though. His depth was real. Being Hungarian Jews, both his brother and father were killed in concentration camps. His mother survived Auschwitz. Then, after the war, he went straight into some super fucky communism. After going through this kinda shit? You just don’t feel pop music anymore. It seems childish. All You Need Is Love can fuck itself with a burning cactus. God? Naw dawg, you had your chance. Shit’s over. It’s time for chaos, motherfucker. Not just for the pain that’s felt in loss but for the joy and the guilt in having survived it. For the painful forgetting that comes alongside peace. It’s the fear that comes when you realize no one is piloting the goddamn plane. This dude lived in the quick witness and humility of someone that truly fucking lived. You listen to shit like Hamburg Concerto and it’s no longer about depth of space. Shit’s about havoc, joy, pain, loss, and everything else. It’s an everything bagel you keep ordering even though you don’t know why. Whenever I think I got a hold of this thing called music, I go back to Ligeti. There’s always something in it I just don’t get, something too odd, something that’s beyond me. Then, after a while, I feel the shape of it. And it scratches something in me that I didn’t know itched. I get it if you think I’m fucking with ya. This shit is really weird. You might think I’m some overeducated shit trying to be smart by tapping my foot to noise. It’s not like that. Sometimes life just throws you shit that’s stranger than alternative, angrier than metal, and deeper than ambient. There are moments when you’re suspended in madness. Did you ever think the grocery store would look like a dystopian landscape? Are we all just cool with this now? Ligeti is for the moments you tell yourself this world can’t be real. When nothing feels normal. That’s when I put this shit on and stare out into a lake made of monarch butterflies that’s eating some laughing baby and say to myself, “This motherfucker jams.”
These motherfuckers can play!
Diehl ain’t here to prove shit. The jazz pianist got the grammies, the accolades, the chops, the crowds, the swag, that fat jazz dick, and the depth of an emo black hole discovering God in the galaxy MACS0647-JD. Ya, the galaxy MACS0647-JD, motherfuckers. That shit is deep. Paul Sikvie, the upright bassist on this bitch, plays like silk feels. He floats like a feather on a warm breeze in summer. Ever hear bass whisper secrets to its lover under the bedsheets? That’s how this dude plucks gut. Then there’s Gregory fucking Hutchinson. Some drummers can’t be called drummers. They’re just past that shit. They’re beyond. They’re complete musicians and composers. They’re euphonic fucking savants. These three players blend perfectly. They exist to project a single idea. The subtle depth of this album comes on like spring. Sure, you might not notice it all at first, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. No matter how frigid, long, and powerfully bitchy winter is, one day you look outside and there’s some deer accidentally fucking a bush over a batch of new-sprung flowers. Well, shit, there it is. It’s fucking spring. This shit sneaks up like a ninja. You don’t realize it’s murdered you until it’s over.
This album includes 7 original compositions from Diehl himself. Each one is like that chocolate waterfall in Wonka’s factory: smooth, thick, enticing, daring, a bit scary, and rich as balls. This is music you can throw on in the back and feel good about. But if you’re in the mood to dig into technique and wonder, you’ll have Oompa Loompas singing about your death before act 2. Like Willy Wonka, as you’re smiling like the cat that got the cream, it’s subtly killing with a cane, like a true motherfucking pimp. The other songs on this album are covers. A classic jazz move. Usually jazzers change up songs from legends like Gershwin, Fats, and sometimes Radiohead. But not Diehl. Naw, too fucking easy. This dude covers Philip Glass’s, “Piano Étude No. 16,” and Prokofiev’s, “March from Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 12.” This ain’t just a shtick either. He doesn’t simply pull it off, dude pulls it out. And it’s fucking glorious.
Wait … what does it pull out? Effortless style, technique that makes me question what the fuck I’ve done with my life, a fun with experimentation and complexity in the same field and depth that chess masters and theoretical physicists must venture through. Come on. How the fuck can someone improvise Prokofiev? Well, first they’ve got to have to the gall, tenacity, and diligence to pull that shit off. Ain’t gonna happen overnight. Second, they’ve got to love the shit out of the piece and listen into all kinds of music with the clarity of a goddamn audiophiliac. And finally, those motherfuckers better be able to play.
Roman 6:1, 2. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”
When Johnny Cash quotes Revelation 6 at the beginning of the song, “A Man Comes Around” it’s fucking badass. A gruffly old bible quoting coming from the king of outlaw country? Fuck ya. “And Hell followed with him.” Shit still gives me chills. It made me pee a little. No, I lied, it wasn’t all pee. But this Romans shit? What the fuck? This is some NIV yielding artsy shit. This isn’t old school tobacco chewing King James. It doesn’t sound badass. It’s fucking confusing. I wish I could blow past it. I wish I could take on the mind that some artsy fucks just like to sound strange and quote esoteric bible verses cause it makes their dicks hard and their seats wet. But this is Drew Daniels from Matmos. Their last album (under their band name) was an electronic album made entirely out of the sound created from plastic. The reason? Save the fucking earth. These motherfuckers make concept albums. Their shit is deliberate. He’s a Shakespearean fucking scholar. Dude understands intent. Each track off this album is a single word from this verse so it’s probably super fucking important. Knowing this, I don’t think I have a choice.
It’s time for bible study, motherfuckers.
The book of Romans is a letter. Yep, pad and pen shit. An old school e-mail. In the letter this dude Paul, or the artist previously known as Saul until he tripped balls on hallucinogens one day, is writing a letter—yep you guessed it—to the fucking Romans. In this bit of verse, Paul is talking about the grace of god and all that good shit. But he’s getting tricky with heaven. Check it: If humanity is saved only by the grace of god, and we get this grace when we sin, shouldn’t we sin all the time so we can keep getting buckets full of grace? More sin = more grace. You know the move. We’ve all done it. Piss off the hot ex so you can keep rage fucking. Fake sick to get out of school. Trip the kid in the park because: One, it’s not your kid. Two, it’s hilarious. And three, there’s no one else around. In other words, it’s a dick move. You get what you want, sure, but you’re a cunt about it. This begs the question, why the fuck would you make an album about this?
Drew Daniels is not a fan of Trump’s trumpery.
The election of Donald Trump made me feel very angry and sad, but I didn’t want to make “angry white guy” music in a purely reactive mode. I felt that I needed to make music through a different process, and to a different emotional outcome, to get past a private feeling of powerlessness by making musical connections with friends and people I admire, to make something that felt socially extended and affirming.
Seems like the dude is talking about how to react to *gestures wildly in every direction*. And, fuck me, he makes a good point using the bible. That book. That pissy brick. More times than I wish to say, when someone’s been a huge dick it’s acted as its head. But this time it’s different. Drew Daniels is gay. I’m sure the dude has been on the receiving end of a good bible thumping. And he’s a smart dude. He understands his audience. This verse is directed toward the people that actually listen to his music. And after watching countless educated and angry motherfuckers condemning close minded and sanctimonious motherfuckers that won’t change under duress, he came to understand that we’re all stupid motherfuckers. We can keep tweeting shitty things to someone that dropped out of elementary school about something we feel passionate about. Fuck, you might even get that good feeling of fighting the good fight. But should we keep on being cunts to feel socially validated? Or, in other words, shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
Oh shit, the fucking music!!!
There’s not fucking way I would have done this bible study unless the shit was dope. This album combines electronica, contemporary classical, funk, pop, and a fuck ton of other genres. This shit is at the forefront of the goddamn game. Is it strange at times? Um, ya. Look at that fucking title. But more than anything, it’s peaceful. It’s restorative. The music matches the message. It’s calming ambient with a message of peace without being flaky as hell. It’s heavily conceptual without being weighty as fuck. It pokes the bear just enough to get that good rage fucking, doesn’t move in, doesn’t eat all the food, and gets to the point without getting murdered. It’s the goldilocks of goldilocks. It’s one smart ass bitch.
Some general motherfuckers call the genre “noise pop” halfway between bubblegum and avant-guard. And I get it, kinda. But that’s a far fucking fetch from defining whatever the hell this is. Noise pop? Naw. This is what happens when your nightmare comes to life and makes you motorboat their perfect set of tits. This is the devil’s stripping and strutting a soft 9 in an overworked banana hammock as he drips hot wax across his perfect set of abs. This is electronic/metal dressed up as a schoolgirl happily licking an eyeball at the end of a pointy stick. This is the soundtrack you play as you burn down your childhood home. It’s the sound of burning dreams. It’s sonic fucking conflagration. It’s the anger created from the disillusionment of everything pop, and a lot of society, promised the world would be. The rich are born rich. Marriage didn’t make me feel less lonely. The new house is a prison I can’t escape. The glass slippers came in a variety of sizes and Prince Charming is fucking my father.
This album doesn’t start with much. Some synth and a female pop voice singing about being hurt. Bla bla bla. Yadda yadda yadda. Heard this shit before. Then around the 2 minute mark the voice begins to distort and your curiosity sparks. But that’s just the beginning of the deterioration. This album starts with a false expectation. But, for your own fucking good, stick around. There’s more here than meets the eyeball being licked at the end of a stick. The nightmare is fucking entertaining.
Around the 1:40 mark on the second track the metal double kick drums start. Oh fuck ya. The 1:50 mark shows a bit of the evil face similar to Death Grips. There it fucking is. Then in a sudden crash, at 2:15, it’s a happy-dappy pop song again. Huh? The more this album plays, the more distorted it becomes. This is the fairy tale pop music created arriving into the real world. It’s the Little Mermaid realizing her husband only loved her when she was voiceless and 17, Snow White’s Prince revealing he’s actually a necrophiliac that happened upon – what he thought was – a dead homeless woman, and Mary Poppins’s sugar being nothing more than a shit ton of DMT she feeds to kids so she can fuck the dirty chimney sweep in the next room. But, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t dance. It doesn’t mean the world is shit. It’s better this way. The music bobs way more than it ever did in Nevergonnaland. And now you can bounce that dump truck ass on the dance floor. Stretch marks? Fuck ya, let me lick those sexy grooves. Black Dresses doesn’t destroy pop and replace it with nihilism. Too fucking easy. It takes the shit we always knew and gives it depth, flare, and reason. It’s loud, honest, and unforgiving. It takes Cinderella, puts her in the real world, and she’s become a mafia don running her own brothel by the end of the year. It’s a whole new world and it’s one hot ‘n’ nasty bitch.
Oh yes. Like that. Right there! You finally did it, Brian. You hot bitch. You kindly leopard. You raspberry clitoris and marmalade dick sonuvabitch. Those hairy legs and thick face are sweating out the slippery notes and taut melodies that set my knees a popping and perks my nips. You finally made the fucking album I was waiting for you to make. Goddamn it, Brian. Great fucking job.
Is this album easy to predict? No. Instrumentally it shifts hard. But it doesn’t ride that clutch or grind gears. Shit is smooth as silk. This is late-Bowie, Prince, Beach Boys, Flaming Lips, and Wilco alongside a plain-spoken tongue cheek honesty smelling slightly of Stephin Merritt or John Grant. This is that kind of shit where pop becomes art. It’s where Brian Wilson would have gone if his wits’ve never left him. It’s what Harry Nilsson would’ve done if he hadn’t ripped his vocal chords, was sober at some point, and happened to be 30-40 something in 2020. This is beautifully crafted. Every second is produced to perfection. It’s slightly seasoned medium-rare high-grade singer-songwriter.
“But Brightly,” you ask, “who gives a shit how it looks when its got the IQ of 4, the wits of damp sponge, and the humour of a government official at a business luncheon?”
Well, you’re in luck, motherfucker. Cause alongside this sick production, ballsy style, and technical precise instrumentation you’ve got bleeding-edge wrist-cutting heart-pouring, “here’s my soul you greedy piece of shit!” lyricism that’s simply sopping with honesty and humour. This album is about Brian’s newly diagnosed, but not newly discovered, mental illness and the loss of his father. So get ready for an honesty bath. The stinging means it’s working. “I woke up in a Nando’s car park dressed in a banana suit, this wouldn’t bother me so much if I owed a banana suit,” is one of the lyrics that show the humour and honesty of these tracks. “I’ve had my indicator on since leaving Crewe, that explains the gestures in my rear view,” displays the album’s dazed state of affairs with the world. Track two starts with Brian delivering a punchline to a joke that we haven’t heard to a laughing crowd, “See, that’s why I don’t care about being accessible anymore.” Brian has built something to be appreciated. Though the humour is entertaining, it’s a coping mechanism. Amongst a thick production on the track, “Ghosthunting” Brian’s wistful falsetto sings, “At the funeral my cousin he asked me in small talk, ‘Are you making the people dance?’ I said, ‘sure.’ But to myself, ‘Who does he think I am, Tame Impala?'”
This album is deeply funny and deeply sad. Ya, shit can be both somethings. But only when it’s performed by an absolute master. You fucking did it, Brian. Bravo.
You want enemies in the classical game? Review this fucking album.
There’s gonna be some hoity-toity motherfuckers sitting at home all high and mighty on their classical thrones made of ivory, money, and puppies’ tears that will read this (probably not, let’s be honest), scoff in some profound and sanctimonious way, and I will lose any and all credibility as a classical music connoisseur. But guess what? I don’t fucking care. They’re wrong. I’m right. No, you’re immature!
Yesssssss, I know this is a dramatically slower version of every other Satie out there. I’ve heard the complaints. “Reinbert is only playing it this slow to give a false depth to the pieces. Anyone could do that.” No, he isn’t. And no, they couldn’t. This is one of the only renditions of Satie that allows breath. It gives the notes room to float into every crevice of your being before the next note is played as softly and naturally as rain water hitting a leaf in spring. To anyone out there that doesn’t like classical music, or thinks it’s all a bunch of silly shits playing the same tunes over and over, I fucking dare you to check this out. Go ahead. Fall in love with it, you dirty slut. You won’t be able to stop yourself. Allow your heart to melt to the pure honest liberating simplicity of these gorgeous fucking pieces. Find the mystery, joy, and emotional depth in simple waltzes. Find yourself falling in love and lusting over Reinbert’s renditions. Then, one day, you’ll hear some silly shit play their version and you’ll boil with rage. That’s how this works. I have held on to this recording of Satie since it first came out and have listened to it countless times. Many times it’s been quietly playing in the background as I read or enjoyed my day. It’s fucking relaxing. It’s been there with me during moments of tragedy and heartbreak. These notes have said what my soul was unable too. These songs have acted as auxiliary tears, laughter, and existential fucking contemplation. This music has allowed me to suck life’s bone marrow and drink in its essential nature, contemplate the seconds like hours, and laugh at this fleeting and ineffable joke which, somehow, answered all of life’s question only to forget a moment later what the fucking punchline was. Is this a recommendation? Ya, it fucking is.
I’m sad to say that Reinbert de Leeuw, that beautiful Dutch bastard, is now teaching the universe the subtlety of silence. He died back in February at 81 years of age. His impact on the “contemporary” classical world was huge. Many love his renditions of Bartók, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, or Messiaen. Personally, I will always love his Satie. His daring to do what he believed to be beautiful to the best of his ability has been a constant inspiration to me. Anyone can hate or break shit. But to love or create something worthwhile, that shit takes time. Hell, you might even say it requires room to breathe.